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     Volume 6 Issue 20 | May 25, 2007 |

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Experimenting with Expressions

Elita Karim

Sudip Chakroborthy was drawn towards theatre at a very early age. As a youngster at school, he would often skip study time at home in Nabiganj to go and catch the local dramas that would be held in his town. To him, the world of theatre was an abode of emotions and expressions where actors on stage would tell stories, not only through words but also the facial language and expressions in their eyes. The way silence would take over and fill the stage and capture the audience had always fascinated Sudip. Being on stage and experimenting with theatre techniques has always been Sudip's dream ever since.

Theatre is a collective art space, says Sudip.

Theatre is the greatest of all art forms, according to the famous Oscar Wilde, and the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another, the sense of what it is to be human. It is so much more than the colourful costumes, emotional dialogues and the resulting fame. After finishing with both the undergraduate and the graduate programmes in Theatre from the Department of Theatre, Dhaka University in 2003, Sudip decided to give more time to experimenting with the available techniques in Bangladesh and abroad. Not only did he study the practical aspects of the techniques, but also worked with several theatre activists and university students. An ice breaking session is what every beginner needs.

Eyes shut tight, you relax your muscles and let your body go limp. Ignoring the everyday accumulation of the nitty-gritty inconveniences in life, smoothening up the knotted tension cramped in your muscles and feeling absolutely free for probably the first time in your short-lived life, you let yourself fall from a height and fly. You feel yourself falling backwards, down and suddenly two pairs of arms catch hold of you, preventing you from falling on the ground and hurting yourself. You quickly come to your senses and open your eyes to find several young boys and girls clapping in delight and hooting encouragement. 'Trust Game', is one of the many theatre games that are played with the students and beginners. "Theatre is a collective art space," says Sudip. "One realises the space and scans the activities of one's daily life and behaviour in various ways."

Very recently, Sudip got an opportunity to work with similar theatre activists in the United Kingdom. The programme 'Contacting The World' (CTW) organised by the British Council gave Sudip and his team to interact first hand with theatre activists from all over the world. "This international theatre festival is organised almost every year, bringing together theatre people from all over the world," says Sudip.

The theatre group from Bangladesh watched and studied several performances held in this programme. "This was a very good experience for all of us," says Sudip. "Not only did we learn from the theatre groups in the UK, but also experienced drama and theatre hailing from other countries as well." According to Sudip, oriental theatre seemed to have a huge technical support, both self-created and maintained. "Some of the works that we saw from many parts of the world were amazing and led us to think in different ways regarding our own theatre practices."

Where theatre is said to have reined for centuries, the theatre groups in the UK seem to showcase simple elements like love, life, passion and despair and build expressions and stories around the themes. "Simply speaking, the performers in the UK groups played a big role in inspiring and encouraging all the other groups to think positive and take the risk to walk the extra mile," says Sudip."

The international theatre festival brought in drama experiences and techniques from diverse cultures.

Sudip and his team conducted several workshops, displaying the techniques and elements used in Bangladeshi theatre. With no knowledge of culture, one cannot understand the beauty and the depth of a language. Similarly, members of all the theatre groups from all over the world got a taste of the Bangladeshi culture by participating in the workshops held. "Each group had to work on particular themes and showcase a particular element of one's own culture in the workshops and the dramas held in the end," explains Sudip. "We worked on the relationship between empty space and the props, mask, makeup, costume and the character itself. We also held workshops based on techniques from the indigenous theatre in our country."

Sudip has been to several countries both attending and conducting theatre workshops, since the last CTW. He thinks that even though there are plenty of theatre resources in Bangladesh, we still don't have the sense of professionalism within us. "Something that I learned at the CTW from the other groups is that their perception of life is very definite and strong," he says. "They take their work very seriously and are always open to new ideas. If we want to better the already built theatre platform that we have in Bangladesh, we have to be open as well ans start taking risks and not be afraid to experiment."

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