Home / Mint-lounge / Features /  Thespo 17 : Become a stranger in your city

Imagine walking in Mumbai’s Juhu area, having lived in the city for months, even years. And looking at the streets, the shops and the people like you are seeing them for the first time. Audiences at the youth theatre festival Thespo 17 can be part of such an “immersive" experience, The Stranger, designed by Italian experimental theatre director Daniele Bartolini.

Quasar Thakore Padamsee, whose Mumbai-based theatre group QTP organizes the annual festival, explains the idea behind The Stranger. “You don’t know who the actors are, so you look at the people on the street differently, you look for signs everywhere," he says. “You become the stranger (in the city)… We have very little experience of site-specific theatre in the country, leave alone audience-specific theatre. That’s why we invited Daniele to the 17th edition of Thespo."

The “audience-specific work" does not need a stage. One audience member at a time will go on a 30-minute walk around Prithvi Theatre in Juhu. The route and some of the experiences are “structured". But the audience member doesn’t know the plan. There are some 16 actors on the streets who give the audience member ideas on where to go next and what needs to be done.

Primarily dedicated to theatre by performers under 25 years, the festival programme this year includes music shows as well. Padamsee says activities are planned for the entire day for every day of the festival, starting with workshops, music shows, fringe shows like The Stranger, and then “platform performances". “Platform performances are open-air, high-energy, 20-minute shows just before the main play. We have a magic show (in this segment) as well as excerpts or abridged versions of some of the 159 entries we got for the festival," says Padamsee.

The selection of the plays was a year-long process. QTP received entries in 11 languages. Two QTP selectors toured the country watching the plays and then shortlisted them. “They couldn’t travel to Pakistan (they had received entries from Karachi and Lahore) but the groups sent us DVDs," says Padamsee.

The five plays in the programme include entries from New Delhi, Mumbai, the outskirts of Kolkata and two from Pune. In terms of languages, they represent Hindi, Marathi, Khari Boli and Bengali. The plays have contemporary as well as folk elements. In Hero, for example, director Ajinkya Mane has used the Bharud folk song style. “We have used the format in our story of a village boy who starts to imitate Amitabh Bachchan to woo a girl. She is not impressed. The play is a situational comedy," says Mane on phone.

Among the 11 workshops, till 12 December, two are free: one by dancer Astad Deboo and another by crowd-funding site Wishberry. The workshops are open to all, says Padamsee. Except the one on method acting by actor Sohrab Ardeshir, which might require some background in theatre.

Thespo 17 is on till 12 December. Venues and timings vary. Tickets for the plays, 150, available on in.bookmyshow.com. To register for workshops, call 7506025456. For the complete schedule, visit www.thespo.org

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