‘Theatre can invoke a sense of concreteness in people’ – NP Ashley

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NP Ashley | Asst Professor
NP Ashley | Asst Professor

Did the stage and its possibilities interest you since childhood?

As a child, I enjoyed getting people together to do something. I would spend a lot of time trying to think of starting some arts or sports activities. I must have drifted into theatre because of this knack. I was in the sixth standard, when I did my first play ever. More than the possibilities of the stage, it was the wondrous process of what goes into people getting together to make something that is everyone’s yet nobody’s, that has always interested me.

In India, where the theatre is overshadowed largely by popular cinema, where does a dramaturge stand?

The dramaturge is usually dealing with the concept or the narrative of the play. As for other elements, she/he gives clarity to the production and process through feedback. Due to the dramaturge’s contribution to the political content of the play, this office can be quite important in any mass art. But, we are yet to recognise this entity in Indian theatre or cinema.

What do you think should be the idiom of a good Indian play?

In India, the task is not to do aesthetically fancy things. We need to do things like “newspaper theatre” that Augusto Boal talks about. Just read various newspapers and explore its contradictions. Thus, theatre can invoke a sense of concreteness and make an impact on people emotionally. Theatre can be used as a means of community formation and so on. Theatre today has to be more anti-media than anything else.

What are you working on right now?

I am preparing to write and direct a play on one of the iconic figures of St Stephen’s College, CF Andrews. He is always an outsider to his homeland as well as to Indians. I hope to explore the neither-here-nor-there condition through his interactions with Gandhi, Tagore and others.

What are the issues that interest you in contemporary theatre?

I have been thinking of Facebook theatre; what would be theatre in the age of web 2.0 platforms? We are all cyborgs already. There is no point in talking about body versus technology. Body is technologised. So there should be expressions of such a lived reality. I am always looking forward to such works.

Usri Basistha

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