Intimate theatre at its most intense involves the use of small spaces as well as scripts for no more than two actors. The minimalism demanded by this kind of drama finds few takers among Bengali groups, which depend on conventional-sized auditoriums and audiences as their constituency. Of course, the paucity of suitable venues itself poses a stumbling block: only Padatik and the Tripti Mitra Sabhagriha of Paschim Banga Natya Akademi provide fully-equipped and functioning studio theatres in our huge metropolis.

In this context, the subject of Bātil Chithi – the intimate and endangered art of letter-writing – fits the concept of intimate theatre perfectly. Gulshanara Khatun’s first full dramatic-cum-directorial venture looks back at a romantic relationship through the lovers’ correspondence, abruptly cut short by the man’s death, yet carried on in his absence by the woman, who continues to express to him on paper her thoughts and feelings. The scenario carries the potential pitfall of luxuriating in nostalgia, but on the whole avoids slipping into sentimentality.

Gulshanara achieves this primarily by keeping her own performance on a tight leash as she reads from the letters scattered all around her. Sujoy Prosad Chatterjee, her partner, surprises us not so much by his acting as by his unaccompanied singing – a talent that we did not know of. The take-aback take-back for spectators comes at the end, when the team distributes postcards for us to inscribe comments on and snail-mail to them – an evocative way to convey the warmth not just of epistles but also of handwriting in the age of digital communication.

Sansaptak, a Bengali group from Delhi, brought a two-evening programme named Dirghayama of eight short solo plays composed by Torit Mitra and directed by Anjon Bose. Although thematically linked by the titular allusion to dark times, the individual pieces fluctuated in quality: for example, an often melodramatic Baudelaire-inspired Māyā Mukurer Satya Kāhon, about the condition of the poor; a simplistic Friedrich von Klinger-influenced morality tale in Hindi, Shaitān ki Swikārokti, featuring the Devil; and the more ironic, contemporary Ātmabodh, in which an ordinary man realizes his pent-up violence when he encounters an extremist.

(From The Telegraph, 21 October 2017)