Bringing Experimental Theatre to Delhi – Actor Factor Theatre Company
Theatre in India is a veteran, what with the curve spanning luminaries like Ashvaghosha and Kalidasa over the centuries to the likes of Girish Karnad today. It sure has witnessed a massive evolution from Sanskrit literature to contemporary western performances. However, it is only of late that the theatre scene has embarked on a truly experimental trajectory. Not only Bangalore and Mumbai, but Delhi too has emerged as a hot bed for new ideas. The Actor Factor Theatre Company (AFTC), established in 2006, has emerged as one of the leading groups in Delhi, with a sincere attempt to focus on experimental forms of the art. The group calls itself a laboratory for artists to come together and give shape to fresh thoughts and newer means. That the experimental genre has started roping in a rapidly maturing audience is a happy bye-product.
The Actor Factor group was started by theatre artist and indie filmmaker Sunit Sinha in the little known South Delhi village of Said-ul-Ajab, now known for the Garden of Five Senses. It was a true bootstrap operation by a group of advertising professionals who came together to explore their interest in theatre – on a shoestring budget. The first production to take shape was Aakaar, adopted from an Anurag Kashyap play, which in turn was chosen for being socially relevant and hard hitting. Kashyap had apparently written the play in his college heydays when he was 20. It took the script all of 15 years to find its way to the stage – this was when Kashyap’s longtime friend Sunit Sinha enhanced the 15 minute script into a full length 90-minute play. The group had begun with just 10 members, who would all get together after office for hours of rigorous rehearsals. Lacking a marketing budget, AFTC had to make do with putting up posters in schools, colleges and art centers.
A Meteoric Rise
Aakaar, while evoking mixed reviews managed to get the ball rolling. AFTC followed it up with Circus and Bees Minute. Their big break though happened almost 18 months later with The Indian Wants The Bronx - a remake of the legendary Israel Hovovitz play. A brutally intense play, The Indian Wants The Bronx received great reviews and Actor Factor was hailed as one of the best upcoming performing groups of Delhi. With physical action being the mainstay of a play that had just 3 actors, its success was all the more important. Then came The Red Corridor, an adaptation of another Anurag Kashyap skit. With a cast that mingled the intensity of seasoned actors with the infectious enthusiasm of greenhorns, Actor Factor delivered with a flourish yet again. The sound and music stole the show, adding an impressive dimension to the play.
Having established themselves, ACTC delved deeper into experimental theatre with Three. This play had 3 concept comedies woven into a single performance – Circus, That Makes Two of Us, and The Masked Man. Giving little away through the deliberately minimalist title, the play raised philosophical issues – the search for the meaning of life and self-identity – using comedy. Sinha pulled off a coup of sorts with Three by getting New York based improv sensation Shelli Koffman to direct the play.
Couple of plays later came The Butcher of Quietly. Set across three time zones and using dark humor, it explored our politics of indifference. Varoon Anand as Soola and Sunit Sinha as director received rave reviews. Sounds of Earth, another in a series of experiments, was a story of a young drifter who wanders aimlessly in search of new sounds. Shashwat Srivastava’s direction and the theme of a musical travelogue gave the play a unique dimension.
The latest productions of Actor Factor Theatre Company however appear to be more traditional. A recent remake of Girish Karnad’s Bali examines the complexity of the man-woman relationship. One of the most established names riding on the brave new wave of experimental theatre, Actor Factor can not only hope to attract great talent but also keep pushing the boundaries of imagination.
It finally seems to be the dawn of a mature theatre scene in Delhi with independent minds at work – minds that don’t shirk from pushing the boundaries of thought and imagination. An increasingly receptive audience, such fertile minds at work and the online marketing spree would hopefully rope in the next generation back to the beauty and power of this expressive format. armchairlounge.com is eager to do its bit to encourage such groups and fan relevant discussions.
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