Youth initiatives that outlast the first flush of enthusiasm deserve commendation if they keep growing with their years. 4th Bell Theatres, born in 2011, establish themselves among new Bengali groups with their latest, Chorus, which demonstrates their maturity while not leaving behind the exuberance of youth theatre. Whereas a fresh unit typically revels in the contemporary, 4th Bell attempt to link this with the past, constructing a bridge to history (which normally does not interest those living in the here and now). Yet, unlike many older groups who linger in a seeming time warp of nostalgia for perceived glory days of yore, 4th Bell puncture that bubble too, creating a sense of existential ennui, which remains even after change comes, contradicted enjoyably by the zest of their performance.

Dramatist-director Aniruddha Dasgupta chooses as his subject the politics of Bengal, going back to the 1990s. He uses a metatheatrical correlative, equating authority in theatre and state, the anonymous and neglected chorus representing the everyman oppressed at all times. But whenever an episode threatens to get too serious, he undercuts it with sardonic humour or a snap-out-of-it return to the present. Only the formulaic end needs revision to sustain this spirit. The cast, supported by live singing and music, exhibit orchestrated teamwork; despite the onstage clutter and chatter, nobody upstages anyone else and the apparently ad-libbed lines never overlap.

The Atelier Campus Theatre national festival entered its tenth year, one leg of which took place in Calcutta. The only full-length production, Outer Dilli, introduced the Yakshagna Theatre Society of Northern India Engineering College, New Delhi. Rahul Rai’s play in Haryanvi, staged professionally in India by others too, exposes bullying in boys’ schools and the vicious circle by which timid, abused pupils themselves continue the cycle as tormentors. Student-director Sachin Srivastava got his actors to capture the slice of life graphically.

However, the local participants, a nonce group called Drama Sutra, presented an indulgent and cliched exercise titled Quarter Boiled Eggs in which male collegemates just waste their time but eventually succeed in the job market. Worse, the two featured actresses let themselves be objectified in roles they should never have accepted.

(From The Telegraph, 10 June 2017)