A tribute to a creative leader

'HAVEL FEST'

A tribute to a creative leader

Bangalore’s theatre community presented ‘The Havel Fest’ at the Alliance Francaise recently. The event, which consisted of a series of plays, did well in celebrating the works of Vaclav Havel, who led the Velvet Revolution that ended the communist regime in Czechoslovakia.

The evening began with ‘Audience’, directed by Pritham Kumar of ‘The Lost Post Initiative’. The character,Ferdinand Vanek, was based largely on Havel himself, was seen conversing with a drunk brewer. Though laced with comedy, the play reflected the state of affairs, comparing the treatment meted out to intellectuals and the common man.

‘Unveiling’, directed by Sachin Gurjale of the theatre troupe ‘Rafiki’, was the second in the Vanek series. Things turned absurd when Valdek, one of the characters visited his pretentious friends — Michael and Vera, for the ‘unveiling’ of their renovated home.

Amusing dialogues were matched with excellent acting. The play followed how Valdek’s presence burst the make-believe bubble the couple lived in. Two of Havel’s plays – ‘Mistake’ and ‘Catastrophe’ – were adapted in Hindi by Kamal Pruthi of ‘The Museum Theatre’. While the former threw light on the institutionalised life of prisoners and the fate of the non-complying inmate, the latter was a tribute to Havel by Samuel Beckett, in the form of a sketch on power and corruption.

The final and most innovative production was ‘The Legend of Vaclav Havel’ directed by Ranji David of ‘Yours Truly Theatre’. Performed using the shadow technique, it delved into incidents from Havel’s personal life that shaped his philosophy – from starting a theatre company in the army to the imprisoned phase of his life. “When I started researching about Havel’s life, I realised how much he had suffered as a person, which came through in his plays.

So, we started to develop a visual language to educate people about the circumstances in which he wrote. It was challenging yet exciting to create this new way of presentation,” shared Ranji, the director.

Common to most Havel plays were the repetitive dialogues, exaggerated communication between characters and drunk antics that were rather noticeable across all plays. But what showed Havel’s genius was how despite reflecting the times, each play could be seen as a story in itself outside its historical context. “I enjoyed the festival. The first two worked well in terms of acting and style,” said Amol Veelani, a member of the audience. Ritika, another theatre enthusiast, said that the shadow puppet play was her favourite.

“The imagery and creative portrayal of Havel through shadows intrigued me more than the plays. It was a playful yet powerful medium to watch,” she said.

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