Indian unmasks the art of Italian comedy at NCPA theatre festival

Thursday, 5 December 2013 - 9:32am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

If you thought 15 new plays in four languages over 10 days was all there was to the Centrestage Festival at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), think again. A two-day workshop called Commedia Dell’Arte by Deepal Doshi is creating a lot of buzz already.

Commedia Dell’Arte is an Italian form of physical theatre, which uses masks as the primary medium of playing characters and physical comedy as the underlying genre to communicate a virtuosic story-telling.

The workshop aims to introduce students to the world of masks and teach them the principles and techniques of mask work. Doshi told dna, “Along with concentrating on character work and timing, which forms the basis of comedy, participants will be guided through an explorative process of improvising through exercises of Commedia Dell’Arte.”

Doshi conducts workshops and master classes for acting professionals as well as students in US, Sweden, India and Indonesia. He added, “There is a lot of relevance of 16th century Commedia Dell’Arte to a 20th century India through the exploration of archetypes and their dynamic relationship in society. ”

The actor-creator and director should know what he’s saying, given his training in Grotowsky-based Physical Theatre from Vårdinge by Folkhögskola, Sweden, and Dell’Arte International School Of Physical Theatre, California, in devising original ensemble works and studying forms like Commedia Dell’Arte, melodrama and tragedy.

Apart from studying traditional Balinese mask carving, mask dances and shadow puppetry, his work with renowned productions from around the world has brought him critical acclaim.

‘It’s Not What You Think’, written and directed by him, received a standing ovation at Centrestage, where it premiered. The play looked at a bank heist by bumbling thieves, an off-key classical music performance, lovers spurned and reunited, cooks whipping up a storm, obedient servants and braggarts — all in one evening of fast-paced, physical humour that knocked audiences off their seats laughing. The frenzied performance of Commedia dell’ Arte sketches with characters and stories drew from both, classic Italian form and everyday Indian society.

“Character masks are already part of the socio-religious and cultural landscape in India because of traditional arts like Ramleela or Dashavtar,” says Doshi, who has also dabbled in Marathi theatre in the past.

Where: Sea View Room, NCPA
When: December 7-8
Timing: 3pm to 8pm

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