Atul Kumar Interview With Parul Rana
Atul Kumar is an actor and director of 'The Theatre Company which is based out of Mumbai. He has been practicing and making theatre for over two decades now. In a recent interview with Kumar, he spoke to us about his recent show – WHERE DOES ALL THIS WOOD COME FROM, the inspiration behind the show he has curated, and the future of theatre.

 By Parul Rana

What are the nature of the show and the concept around it?
It is what we call a promenade performance, where the audience is immersed in the performance, physically in the space so they actually become a part of the performance itself. The performance happens open air on a five-acre plot. The audience and actor move from one space to another and the quality, the nature, the texture, and the spaces of the performance also change. Sometimes it is close to water, sometimes close to the fire, sometimes it's on the top of the table, sometimes under a tree, sometimes vast open sky, so it keeps changing and that's the very nature of the show.

The performance does not have a linear beginning, middle, and end. It is not a story. They are basically images, capsules, snippets of images these actors create. Of course, they are full of emotions, there are a lot of ideas and symbols that come across as concepts. It is about finding beauty and happiness in nature, in banal things, in everyday things, we see around us. We really wanted to explore that in these times. When everyone is coming out of isolation and gloom, we really wanted to explore happiness.

What was your inspiration behind creating this show?
COVID 19! It was the main reason why we were all separated from each other, and couldn't come in closed spaces to perform. When we got together in artist residency for the first time, when the lockdown opened up, the most overwhelming thing we experienced was just the beauty and the happiness that gave us to look into each other's eyes and be together. To be in the same space. That's the main reason, celebrating the fact that we survived and now that we have survived, we have realized the things we take for granted are so beautiful and so much to learn from.

Please discuss your experience while creating and executing this performance. Was it limited due to the Covid 19 restrictions or a liberating experience?
Every show is liberating, every time we start creating a piece, it is liberating. Each show has its own limitations as well. For example, this show is not in the city and not in an auditorium, so 200 or 500 people can't see it together. It's very intimate and very few audience members are invited. Also so that people can maintain distance and take care of Covid protocols. The audience will get one to one experience with what they are seeing. Every experience is something, we take back something with us, and we learn something. It's a transformative experience.

Did the idea of audience interaction as a part of this play emerge from pandemic isolation or was it lifted from immersive theatre?
Both. We are using a form that preexisted. It is not the first time it's happening. We adopted that form of theatre also because of this reason. We particularly feel and hope people who would not have gotten a chance to get out of their homes, or not gone to the theatre, will actually come to watch something open air because it's a lot safer. And maybe a lot of people for the first time will be interacting and will be coming to watch art the first time post-pandemic. Hopefully, we will be able to connect with them.

Do you think there is a need for theatre to be more experimental to keep up with other forms of entertainment or stick to its traditional roots?
There always have been experimental forms, classical forms, and traditional forms and nothing can stop anything. I am a big supporter of change. Old and traditional must exist and we must learn from it and it should exist by itself because it is very rich in its value and forms and traditions. At the same time, it must keep changing with the new generations, new ways of looking at the world, new ways of doing theatre are coming up and we should encourage that. A lot of digital theatre is happening and I fully support it and I hope more and more young people will create stuff that completely astounds and surprise us.

*Parul Rana is a theatre enthusiast and movie buff.

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