Theatre for Fair Play

The audience stands close together, long after the act is over and the actors have left the performing area. They are clearly shaken just the reaction that actor-director Chakresh was hoping for with his theatre group Alankar's new production, Death of Humanity. The street play, presented last week at National School of Drama's (NSD) Bharat Rang Mahotsav in Jantar Mantar, Delhi, and on Thursday at the plaza of Sector 17, comprises a series of vignettes on the recent gang rapes in Delhi, Patiala and Haryana, besides other instances of women's abuse. "Damini's case, her pain, the police apathy in the Patiala rape case, the rapes of Dalit girls in Haryana we have incorporated all these in the performance. We want to get reactions from the public and make them think," says Chakresh.

Death of Humanity will be presented at the plaza for the next 10 days. "We are ready to fight, we have low tolerance and respect levels," says Chakresh.

With five actors, songs, poetry and direct dialogues addressed to the audience, the performance is aimed at shaking the passivity out of the audience. The storyline revolves around issues such as women's rights and social disdain towards rape victims as well as the need to voice the pain. "It's strange that we should be feeling ashamed that rapes still happen in 'civilised societies'. In our play, we ask the audience, 'kuch suna, dekha, bola' and wait for their reactions," says the director.

Theatre group Jumbish is also looking to bring a change with its performances on social causes in Punjab and Delhi. The group's recent production, Ladkiyan, is a comment on a women's freedom, honour killings, Khap panchayats and rape cases among others. One of their previous plays, Eklavya Uvaach, dealt with caste problems."Our performances combine poetry, dance and theatre," says Gagandeep, a Punjabi University alumnus.

The group believes that it is easier to connect with the rural audience through theatre, literature and dance. These aesthetic elements are a staple in Jumbish plays, including those that deal with hard-hitting issues such as caste and women's abuse. "These performances connect people, make them think beyond themselves and also give them a chance to react positively," says Gagandeep.

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