Happily, as women join theatre groups in larger numbers, drama becomes a liberating experience for them and a platform for presenting gynocentric material. On the flipside, several productions use the fashionable technique of patchworking their scripts from diverse origins, which often dilutes the intensity with which one play can develop a single theme.

The Creative Arts continues its all-women projects on Beyond Borders directed by Ramanjit Kaur, showcasing her knack for a theatre of images and ensemble blocking, notably visible in how they move as a unit across the stage. She integrates personal stories and short texts ranging from Brecht to Auden, Gulzar to Tasleema Nasreen, Mamta Kalia to Benjamin Zephaniah, by making the performers, clothed in buff shades, express the mental instability that various boundaries create. While Tanmoy Bose’s music and Daulat Vaid’s lighting capture the moods, the photo projections add little.

Code Red, by a new young troupe, Project Prometheus, yokes Romanian French playwright Matei Visniec’s The Body of a Woman as a Battlefield in the Bosnian War (1987) with Tagore’s Sishutirtha. Visniec’s two-hander features a pregnant victim of mass rape by soldiers and an American psychologist at the Croatian camp, but the former’s decision to have the baby seems strangely idealistic when she rejected it all along and should have the right to abortion (did Catholic belief influence it?). Indudipa Sinha’s direction displays a fresh approach to choreography and collective motion not seen in Bengali theatre. But one may question the unintended aestheticization or eroticization of the sexual assault: how does one depict such horror through dance? The slideshow catalogue of war crimes also goes way overboard.

Aihik have often woven different sources together. In Panchakanyā, they choose the five mythic pillars of female virtue: Ahalya (with Gautama), Mandodari (with Ravana), Kunti (with the Pandavas), Tara (with Sugriva), Draupadi (with Kichaka). However, the dramatized scenes remain too brief to give any of them depth of treatment, besides occurring within a frame narrative where four village women bravely volunteer to cremate an ostracized girl, and a sadhu recounts the ancient lore. Why the sage must be male defeats me; and Arindam Roy’s visualization of the epic heroines resembles TV costume drama, not empowerment. Why not modern dress?

(From The Telegraph, 13 May 2017)