ITFoK 2017...Find out why you must visit the International Theatre Festival of Kerala and get on to the streets of Thrissur...

February 17, 2017 4:06:48 PM IST
MTG editorial

Why should you bother? Why should you make the effort to travel all the way to one of the southernmost states of the country – a good 24+ hour train ride/not so affordable flight, away from almost anywhere else in India?

Because one of boldest, most modern festivals in South Asia is on between the 20th and the 28th of February 2017 in Thrissur. You don't want to be one of those people who have to hear for ages after about all the amazing theatre they missed.

ITFoK has never been just about the play. Over the past 8 years it's developed a recognisable vibe – a sort of street cred that makes just being in the sprawling Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi, an event to savour. The random spontaneous silent performance in the courtyard, the hour-long wait outside theatres in queues that spark heated discussions and new friendships, the slightly strange pepper coffee, chance encounters with actors and directors in cafés all over town and the rush to the next-door bar before ten pm - all add to the feeling that something special is happening here.
It gets even better this year as ITFoK takes this vibe to the streets of Thrissur. While the grounds opposite the campus and an old building next door have been used as stages for years, this time there are 14 venues outside the city...Temple Round, busy street crossings and swimming pool included. The theme is Street Performanceand the majority of plays are outdoor affairs, free and open to the public.

Few of the old faces have returned. One of them is Puppeteers Les Anticliastes from France; already busy setting up for another of their twisted takes on mundane routine. New names dominate the program; a carnival-inspired act from Chile, La Patriotico Interesante, a stilt walking spectacle from Italy by Teatro dei Venti, a solo-yet-not-quite-solo act from Bulgaria and
Bitef Theatre from Serbia. The Aasakta Kala Manch from Pune will be here, Ebong Amra from West Bengal bring ANDHA YUG and 8 plays from across Kerala ensure that local language theatre is given its due. International collaborative projects, 4 of them, have begun devising hybrid performance with local participants, setting up amid crumbling old masonry and under trees draped in string.

The allied events absent from last year's edition are back. The Theatre colloquium will be held at the Sahitya Akademi and will have panels on issues particularly relevant to our time, including one on 'Theatre making in times of extreme cultural and economic nationalism'. A collection of images and theatre posters celebrating outdoor performance will be here on loan from the Sahmat archives, New Delhi, displayed at the Lalithakala Akademi. The Kanhailal Vedi School of Drama and Fine Arts will play host to a lecture series (Aubrey Mellor, Anuradha Kapur, Erin Mee), two performances and the wandering workshop, MIGRAR, from the Kamchàtka street theatre company of Spain.

There is so much to see and do all day; you might need a couple of days off after. 9 days of festival madness beckon. The kind of madness only the madman knows is bliss.

Click here for the complete schedule.

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