It has been more than a decade that Rage Productions and the British Council created Writers' Bloc as a unique playwrights' programme which puts the script at the focal point of the theatrical experience. Three editions – 2004, 2007 and 2012 – have resulted in producing 32 playwrights who've had their work staged both in India and abroad, especially the UK.
Sam Harvey, Director West India, British Council says "India has a long and vibrant storytelling tradition. Yet at the turn of the century, as far as the backbone of theatre – the script – goes, few writers were writing plays and even fewer were doing so professionally. In 2003, Rage productions approached the British Council with a proposal to build capacity for playwriting in India and we got in touch with Royal Court Theatre – UK's home of new writing. This unique theatre programme discovers, trains, and presents exciting new playwrights by putting the script at the centre of the theatre-making process." The scripts that emerge are then staged at the Writers' Bloc Festival.
The original writers
Purva Naresh, whose Ok Tata Bye Bye was invited to Curve Theatre, London to perform in April 2014, says, "The most beautiful part of the programme is that it allows you and in fact encourages you to write in your own language... that is so liberating and so honest." Her play also won the Laadli Media Award for best play on gender sensitisation. Faezeh Jalali, who has been a part of the programme since its first year, adds, "I've enjoyed the process thoroughly from the very first Writers' Bloc in which i acted in Hard Places, to the last one in which I acted in The Djinns Of Eidgah and directed Jaal. It's also very helpful, as a director and an actor, to have the playwright available to answer questions to tweak things and discuss ideas."
The seeds bear fruits
The development work undertaken by Royal Court in India is one of their longest-standing commitments that has yielded some of their most successful work in Anupama Chandrasekhar and Abhishek Majumdar. "The former's play Free Outgoing premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 2007, and 2008 when it also travelled to the Traverse Theatre for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Night Wood Theatre in the USA has premiered their own production of Anupama's Free Outgoing. Indhu Rubasingham, new artistic director at Tricycle Theatre - who worked with Anupama previously when she was a director at the Royal Court - has commissioned Anupama to write a new play, which premieres later this year," informs Sam.
"One major pit today's Indian writers keep falling into is that they try to play to the audience. And with too many scripts trying to be part of this crowd, they tend to lose an identity. What Writers' Bloc does so well is that they guide the writers in picking a topic they feel comfortable about. Hence the playwrights are given a clean slate and are allowed to tell a story they want to say. End of the day it takes about a year to complete a satisfactory script. Only if you are passionate about it, you will be able to do justice to it. And Writers' Bloc provides the both space, environment and guidance for a playwright to achieve it," says writer Akash Mohimen.
—(The last date to submit the script to Writers' Bloc is June 27)