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Theatre preview: Feisal Alkazi talks about his plays ‘Things I Know To Be True’ and ‘After Dark’

Still from ‘After Dark’

Still from ‘After Dark’
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

When you do something over and over again, it becomes a habit, a muscle memory. After a point, you don’t necessarily have to think about how to do it. It becomes yet another thing. Feisal Alkazi has been directing plays for over half a century (apart from being an educationist, social activist, and author). In a career spanning 52 years, he has helmed over 200 plays. So, one imagines that direction is yet another thing for him, something he can do in his sleep. 

Quite the contrary. “I only direct a play if I don’t know how to do it,” says Feisal, “If I’ve done something similar to it earlier, or if it’s something I know how to do, why should I be doing it?” 

What he says next explains how he has developed the immunity to boredom that comes with repetition. “Every play, I have to challenge myself. And every play has a different process.”

The veteran of Indian theatre will be in Bengaluru this weekend to stage two plays — Things I Know To Be True (by Australian playwright Andrew Bovell) and After Dark (devised by Feisal) — under the banner of Ruchika Theatre Group, a well-known theatre troupe from Delhi known for its socially relevant plays.

Still from ‘Things I Know To Be True’

Still from ‘Things I Know To Be True’
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

The first play, set in Australia, explores the lives of a seemingly flawless family. The facade crumbles as each member confronts life-altering circumstances. Despite the parents’ belief in having raised responsible and mature adults, the reality unfolds through comic yet poignant events. The play delves into themes such as the significance of life choices, the complexities of allowing children to mature, the mundane aspects of marriage, and societal expectations concerning sexuality and gender. The play is also being developed into a six-part TV series with Nicole Kidman in the lead role.

After Dark, meanwhile, takes the audience into the lives of the people who use the Delhi metro for everyday commute. The play challenges conventional norms, navigating the ever-evolving landscape of sensuality and sexuality in a rapidly transforming city. It also invites the audience to contemplate themes of desire, consent, and the fluid nature of relationships.

Feisal came across Things I Know To Be True while visiting his son in London. “I read it in one sitting. It was incredibly moving. By the end of the play, I was in tears,” he recalls. 

Though the play is set in Australia, its theme, Feisal believes, will resonate with Indian audiences. “Both our shows in Delhi got a standing ovation at the end of the play,” he adds. 

The unique process Feisal and his cast followed in this play was, he explains, “We began reading the script, pausing every 20 minutes to discuss and share our personal experiences with siblings, parents, and children — reflecting on how we’ve navigated similar dilemmas within our own lives and families.”

Though both plays are miles apart, geographically, they share similar themes. “All the plays I do, deal a lot with gender and sexuality. And they are about how people from different generations look at life differently. I’m always interested in a changing Indian society because I feel theatre must really reflect what’s happening around us and raise the questions. And the audience has to answer them on their own.”

Things I Know To Be True will be staged on December 2 (at 3.30 p.m. and 7.30 p.m.) and After Dark on December 3 (at 3.30 p.m. and 7.30 p.m.) at Ranga Shankara. Tickets on bookmyshow.com  

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