Group: Trimukhi Platform

Director: Jean-Frederic Chevallier


Eleven years after he came to Kolkata and decided to settle here, director Jean-Frederic Chevallier’s Trimukhi Platform has established itself in Borotalpada village, Paschim Medinipur, where he has introduced young Santhals to avant-garde performance. Their latest production, Homemade Theatre, took place last weekend at Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan as part of the latter’s Five Million Incidents year-long project celebrating their diamond jubilee in India and the centenary of the Declaration of the Independence of the Mind famously signed by Tagore, Rolland, Russell, Einstein and many others.


India needs reminding of that visionary statement today, with which Trimukhi syncs artistically, for its entire approach is open-minded and independent, breaking fixed ideas about what constitutes theatre. The only query concerns the particular techniques adopted, many of which derive from routine postmodern practice: anti-narrative, non-linear, impressionistic, employing found spaces, video and text projection, amplified electronic soundtrack. This acceptance of the international standard, paradoxically, supports homogeneity and undermines difference. Chevallier could consider relying less on digital media and cultivating the Santhals’ acoustic liveness more, as well as improvisation with the audience.


But he has an unerring eye for spatial theatricality. Essentially a site-specific performance, Homemade Theatre walked its spectators through four spaces within the capacious Max Mueller Bhavan – itself so futuristically designed – utilizing every area except the cafe, the sunken lounge and the staircase to the reading room upstairs. Starting in the reception where actors arrived through the entrance and passed down the corridor parallel to the figures screened on the facade, then framed themselves outside the auditorium doorways as we watched from inside, next posed on sliding ladders along the library shelves, it ended in a tour de force on a hidden open-air balcony (where I noticed with organic pleasure that MMB grows corn and chillies) overlooking Royd Street as they appeared surprisingly at windows above.


Chevallier’s captions cautioned us against symbolic meaning. I took back with me images and rhythms: the innovative play of darkness, shadow and light (not the torches shined on faces – an old method), the excitingly dangerous swinging of wires attached to bulbs, and the youths stepping in Santhal unison to the recorded music. I also heard MMB’s undiscovered, flexible studio theatre crying out to experimental groups, “Please use me!”


(From The Times of India, 30 August 2019)