Lounge loves: Travelling storytellers

The sixth edition of the Kathakar International Storytellers Festival will have Indian troupes such as the Tholpavakoothu Sangam and also storytellers from the UK


(Right) Giles Abbott’s performance on 12 November is titled ‘Caught on the Horns’, and is an adaptation of the Greek myth Pygmalion.
(Right) Giles Abbott’s performance on 12 November is titled ‘Caught on the Horns’, and is an adaptation of the Greek myth Pygmalion.

A travelling literature festival will serve as a precursor to Children’s Day this year. The sixth edition of the Kathakar—International Storytellers Festival will have Indian troupes such as the Tholpavakoothu Sangam, a two-decade-old shadow-puppetry troupe from Kerala, and Spice Arthur 702, known to have transformed the traditional Japanese Kamishibai form of storytelling into fast-paced performances.

“Universally, across cultures, the larger template of storytelling is similar. A festival like this will highlight the unique intricacies of different storytelling traditions,” says Danish Hussain, one of those actively involved in reviving Dastangoi, the art of Urdu storytelling.

Mumbai-based Hussain’s act, called Qissebazi, will have short, anecdotal tales in addition to a repertoire of folk tales and poetry. A large part of his performance, however, will be based on the book Sadi Ka Sabse Bada Aadmi by Hindi author and Sahitya Akademi awardee Kashinath Singh.

The festival will also have three storytellers from the UK—Giles Abbott, Sarah Rundle, and Katy Cawkwell.

“As an English storyteller, I get so much from encountering India, Indian people and culture,” says Abbott, who took to storytelling as a response to sudden, though not total, blindness. Much like him, Rundle is excited to connect with new audiences but is also looking forward to being part of the crowd to watch Spice Arthur 702. “They’re excellent—very funny and fast-paced,” she says. While Abbott’s performance on 12 November, titled Caught On The Horns—an adaptation of the Greek myth Pygmalion—is also available to watch on YouTube, the pleasure is in watching the performance live.

“I can tell the same story differently to a different audience. Which is why, when I’m telling, I’m also listening intently to the audience. The same story can be told hundreds of times without it ever being the same,” Abbott says. “That’s why I don’t get bored!”

Kathakar—International Storytellers Festival will be on from 11–13 November at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Janpath, New Delhi.
The festival will travel to Bengaluru on 14 November, and Mumbai on 17 November.

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