Thrissur is often called the cultural capital of Kerala for good reason. The city hosts many festivals, including the famous Thrissur Pooram festival around May when temple idols are paraded on elaborately decorated elephants. This month’s festival is more contemporary. The International Theatre Festival of Kerala (ITKOF), hosted by the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi, brings big lights, high drama, and troupes from as far as Chile and as close as Maharashtra and Assam. It is from Mon February 20 to Tue February 28, 2017.
Start early—perhaps an 11a.m. show such as Clowns’ Houses, which features puppetry from Denmark, or The State, Bulgarian dramatist Alexander Manuiloff’s take on the problems of democracy. The most avid theatre buffs catch up to 10 performances a day, but you can also just weave in and out of auditorium shows and street plays until midnight. Best of all, the outdoor performances are free and the indoor shows are cheap—₹30 a pop—to enable a wide audience to soak in the arts.
Among the shows to look out for are Misty Mountains of Mahabharatha, a Malayalam play by Sreejith Ramanan and the School of Drama, Thrissur, which uses stories of the lesser-known characters of the epic to comment on the frustrations of the modern world. Strings, a Franco-Finnish non-verbal street play, uses music, dance, and theatre to explore the relationship that unfolds between a violinist and a dancer. The Acting Bug, an English play by Patrick Sims and the Les Antliaclastes group, uses puppets to explore the history and evolution of flea circuses, which once used real fleas to perform tricks. Make time for Kerala’s folk theatre performances in the evenings, such as payyannur kolkali, where performers move in circles, rhythmically striking two short sticks while sitting, standing, walking, and running to the beat.
Visitors can also sign up on the spot for workshops, and attend seminars and panel discussions by the visiting theatre exponents. Topics include a director’s mindset, stage design methods, and acting methods. There are also film screenings and exhibitions planned.
Where: Various venues across Thrissur, Kerala.
Getting There: Thrissur is 53km/1hr15min from Kochi, which has the closest airport. Thrissur has its own railway station.
When: Mon February 20-Tue February 28, 2017
Entry: For all events including workshops and performances, outdoor shows are free and auditorium shows are ticketed. Tickets for each show are priced at ₹30 and can be purchased at the venues on the day of performance.
Details: Visit http://www.theatrefestivalkerala.com/ for the schedule and updates.