B Charles, the founder of Chennai Art Theatre, is an ardent admirer of therukoothu performances staged at villages in Tamil Nadu. This form of theatre practice begins in the evening and lasts the entire night.
“Therukoothu is an ancient art, where artistes play songs with dance and music in storytelling the epics. Generally, it is performed after 9 pm and goes on till about 6 am the next day. It’s a wonderful sight to see artistes performing and the audience enjoying the show. I wanted to introduce the same concept to urban people and that’s the reason for me to come up with Midnight Theatre Binge. But since we have night restrictions in the city, we decided to start by 4 pm and end by 1 the next day. It’s very rare people get a chance to watch plays back-to-back,” says Charles.
Four theatre groups are coming on board for the festival. The first play that starts at 4 pm is called Kadhirvelan Kanakku by Gurukulam. Directed by Karthik Gowrishankar, the 60-minute Tamil play is about the life-changing experiences of two strangers. “The second play that will begin at 6 pm is titled What’s the Matter by Guduguduppukkari and is devised and performed by Anitha Santhanam. In this hour-long, deeply quirky piece, Anitha explores losing connection to the maternal matrix, complicated by the patriarchal drive towards ideal and perfection. The third play, Under Pressure is by a group called Visual Respiration. Directed by Aruna Ganesh Ram, this theatre piece examines climate change, consumerism, indigenous wisdom and the politics of nature. The performance presents perspectives — the policymaker, the ragpicker, the environmentalist, and the 8000-year-old tree as a sensory montage — surreal and poetic. The final play called The Wailing Maid Junction directed by Krishna Kumar S is presented by Masquerade,” he explains.