Getting off the Tuk Tuk at Battisputali, a battery operated public transport that carries 15 people at a go, it certainly does not feel like I am in the vicinity of a theater. But then I spot a big poster for a drama "COMA - A Political Sex" and a signpost directing me through a small alley. I see a girl painting the wall on the right. On the left, appears the new theater with its brick walls. A picture of an old man hangs above the door and the walls are decorated with paintings.
The Gothale Theatre is built by the Shilpee Theater Group, honoring Nepalese writer Govinda Bahadur Malla Gothale.
The theatre first opened on 1st March 2014. "COMA - A Political Sex", the drama running in the theatre, I am informed, is directed by Ghimire Yubaraj and written by Kumar Nagarkoti. A Nepali drama, some words, sentences and a little bit of conversation here and there, is in English.
I can’t follow Nepali language but I find the expressions gripping. The play takes place in a surreal world. My confusion is supported by the mixture of Nepali and English languages and I keep feeling I can follow the plot if I listen a tad bit more intensely. I focus on the expressions and gestures of the performers and the backdrop of the play.
The story is "around a writer who is in a coma. The characters in the play are all characters made by the writer, and the stage of the play is actually the mind of the writer. The characters of the play include a fisherman, a man in a wheelchair, a postman, a journalist and his girlfriend, the writer's wife and her sister, and a guy named "Nobody", and they all seem to be a bit irrational."
Shilpee Theater Group is a group of artists that were founded in 2006. They recently built their own theatre in Battisputali, Kathmandu. Next to the entrance gate on the right side is a small bamboo cottage, a ticket counter and a newspaper stand/store combined into one.
Tea is served after the play. The main building/playhouse is made from typical Kathmandu brick. The theater hall can host 210 guests at a go. It has a balcony where the technician is placed and the audience can follow actions in the front of the hall. There is no curtain between the stage and the audience. Infact the audience can be involved in the play. I am told that as according to the play, the stage can be arranged in the hall, in the balcony or on a raised platform.
The interior is designed and constructed by sculptor/artist Rabindra Puri who is an autodidact architect. Shilpee has not followed his plans in all details though. The hall has been designed such that performance of other kinds like of music, fine arts, poetry etc can also be carried out here. This is an interesting theater, designed, built, promoted, and run by artists. It is an artsy place and a meeting point for art lovers.
As impressive as the theatre building, is the Shilpee group itself! The word "Shilpee" means an “artist”. Their plays are inspired by society and politics. Since the 7 years they got together, the Shilpee theatre group has been performing different genres of theatre and mostly forum theatre.
Forum theatre introduced by Augusto Boal is a part of the theatre of the oppressed which is very interactive. The integral part here is the interaction between the actor and recipient.
Broadly concentrated around political or social topics, a scene with an unsatisfactory ending is enacted and the audience is encouraged to participate and find out a better solution. At times scenes are enacted on the streets or in the bus, and the audience is unaware that it is a pretended situation.
The theater of the oppressed, the forum, is a professional improvisation. These methods are used for educational work in more than 70 countries all over the world.
Tickets are available at Shilpee Theatre from 4 PM on the day of the show, and the rates are Rs. 200 for the front rows, Rs. 150 for back rows, and Rs. 100 for students with valid identity cards.
For more information, call Shilpee Theatre at: 1-4469621!
Story & Photography: Sonja Marie Michel
(Sonja Marie Michel is a German citizen, currently working as a photography intern, under the guidance of professional photographer Mr. Kumar Ale at NepalSutra™).