Speed and velocity perhaps gained new definitions with this circus theatre show hosted by an Argentine troupe.

The trajectory of circus theatre in my life has been elaborated on in my previous article. I wrote about how my childhood and visits to circus shows in several cities helped shape the idea of circus theatre. But all that didn’t come easy. Like any other individual trying to find a foothold in a certain domain, I, too, faced a few hurdles and faced personal dilemmas to get to where I am today.

I wrote about the battle within my mind about openly talking about the idea of circus as an art and talking about my passion for circus. I could not share these about circus to any of my friends while pursuing my undergrad studies at the School of Drama and Fine Arts at Thrissur (TSD), other than with Jayakumar.

It was the early nineties. India was actively discovering its varied culture and rich heritage through several platforms. And theatre was one of the foremost in this list. There was no one school of thought or a single way to portray a story or an emotion. And many were yet to discover this line of thought. The culture scenario in major cities exploded like never before, and one of the centers of learning that attracted many theatre persons was the National School of Drama in New Delhi. And that was my next destination, where I went on to complete my three-year Postgraduate Diploma in Dramatics specializing in Design and Direction.

At the National School of Drama

I arrived at NSD with all these varied ideas on theatre – some nascent and suppressed, some clear and stereotyped. I grew up in the 1980s India and in an urban environment, where the only way was forward. Cities, especially the capitals were bustling with activity, and the enthusiasm to move forward was visible in all aspects. That was my exposure and perhaps that’s why I started legitimizing urban theatre forms as rooted mostly in our soil and processed in my mind that these theatre forms are as authentic as any other traditional art forms of India. I was not anywhere near the truth about my notions on theatre.

Let me elaborate. After completing my course at NSD in 1994, I applied to Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), London, for a two-year Diploma in Theater Production and Stage Management. During my stint at RADA, I attended one of the shows hosted at London International Festival of Theatre in June 1997. It was a show Periodo Villa Villa by De La Guarda, an Argentine theatrical troupe who performed theatrical pieces combining certain circus items – the troupe soared some 40 feet above the straight sight line of the audience.

A mesmerizing show

Much to the astonishment of the audience, the Argentine performers, suspended by cables, were swinging from the ceiling and – well, give this a moment to sink in – occasionally scooped up some members of the audience for a sky ride. With thrilling music, spectacular lighting and mesmerizing acrobatics, a make-believe rainstorm, this interactive multi-dimensional show was something nobody in the audience could ever forget. We participated wholeheartedly by standing, moving around and clapping in ovation throughout the performance. The effective use of water, mist and fog by the De La Guarda group was another attractive addition during the show.

The memory is still fresh. Upon entering the renovated Union Square Bank Building, I was ushered downstairs to their lobby for drinks and to have a chance to check their suite as well as mingle with other guests. Five minutes before the show, the staff gave us a shout to head back upstairs where the festivities would begin. The lights went out and I was astounded when the show literally fell from the sky. De La Garda performed in a certain rhythmic vibe created by their percussion beats, the stamping of feet and the loud screams as the cast swung across and, at times, plunged down, to interact with the standing/moving audience throughout the 70-minute show.

Performers ran along with the ceilings in a synchronized manner, and we couldn’t help but follow their movements with our heads tilted up. The creators of De La Garda founded Fuerza Bruta in 2003, which continues the journey in the theatre of vigour and variety.

Write to us at editor@indiaartreview.com


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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