How the combined theatre and circus productions started drawing audiences.

Ever since I developed this aspiration to amalgamate theatre with circus, I started having formal and informal discussions with several circus companies but in vain. The Grand Circus agreed to my proposal with great support from Chandran’s sons. 

It was a Herculean task to get permission from the circus owners for 30 theatre artistes from the government-affiliated theatre institution National School of Drama to mingle, learn and stay with them for a month. I call it a Herculean task because most of the circus companies are apprehensive to deal with any government organisations.

Compared to other circus companies, I could see a lot of differences in Grand Circus, because both Chandran and Savithri spoke to me in a positive and artistic manner. Since both were proprietors of the company and lived in the circus tent, they have a unified approach to most of the issues. Their sense of empathy and warmth is probably why they decided to agree to this project.

A fresh start

Madhu Gopinath and Vakkom Sajeev of Samudra Arts who deftly handled the choreography also experienced that they were participating in a combined project of dance, theatre and circus. The body languages of theatre students and circus artistes had no meeting ground because of their different training methods and temperamental attitudes.

Light designs by Sreekanth, video installations and other technical devices provided in the circus tent gave new life and spirit to the entire circus artistes. The attraction of circus would go up due to small productional changes such as enhancing the aesthetic and technical aspect inside the tent. 

Daredevil acts circus artistes who play with ‘death’ were not getting adequate response from the audience. However, with these increased technological and aesthetic innovations, newer acts may find larger audiences thus encouraging the performers and peripheral staff. 

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Photo: Priyanka Pathak

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Abhilash Pillai is the Professor of Acting and Direction and In-Charge of the Cultural Exchange Program at the National School of Drama NewDelhi and Executive Director of the Asia Theatre Education Centre (ATEC) Central Academy of Drama, Beijing, China. Pillai has collaborated with both international and national theatre production and initiated the first-ever collaboration in India connecting NSD and the Grand Circus, Kerala.

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