Thespians across the country have quietly performed their craft throughout 2018. There have been many notable performances, with veteran icons returning to the stage, university theatre groups being busy as bees, another archaeological drama performed, and finally, some English adaptation of classic plays staged. This article looks at some of the most memorable moments in the theatre scene of Bangladesh over the past year
‘Mahasthan’ staged at Bogra
Archaeological play “Mahasthan” was performed in Bogra on November 24, and 10,000 people attended the premiere of the play. Director General of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy Liaquat Ali Lucky directed the play, which was the fourth in a series to be themed and staged around an archaeological site.
Dhaka Tribune Showtime interviewed one of the performers, AK Azad Shetu, who had this to share about the play: “These plays are so called environmental plays, as so many aspects of the environment are involved in the production. It is a very good initiative to teach history in an entertaining way. Such initiatives bring back interest in the theatre.”
The theatre and voice actor expects that all archaeological sites of Bangladesh will be highlighted this way by the Shilpakala Academy, through the patronage of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs.
IDLC Theatre Festival
The Industrial Development Leasing Company of Bangladesh Limited organized IDLC Theatre Festival 2018 from September 4 to 8. The tagline was the uplifting “Let theatre be a source of joy.”
The theatre groups that participated in the festival were Prangone Mor, Dhaka University Theatre and Performance Studies Department, Podatik Nattya Shongshod, Palakar, Bottola, Dhaka Theatre, Jahangirnagar University Drama and Dramatics Department, Theater, Prachyanat and Nagorik Natya Shomproday.
The notable plays that were staged at the festival were “Hasonjaner Raja,” “The Lower Depths,” “Trial of Surjo Sen,” “Banglar Mati Banglar Jol,” “Crutch Er Colonel,” “Panchya Narir Akkhayan,” “The Alchemist,” “Mukti,” “Circus Circus,” and “Open Couple.”
Theatre groups from various universities have been quietly staging productions on their respective campuses.
Department of Theatre and Performance Studies of Dhaka University performed, among many others, “Panjore Chandroban” (lunatic asylum), from March 6-9 at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy’s Experimental Theatre. The play, written by Shahman Moishan, is a political allegory that radiates the idea of home. It revolves around the crisis and crying of the Rohingya people, the political calamity of the Middle East, and other geopolitical crises in other parts of the globe.
On the other hand, the busiest body of thespians in the country, Jahangirnagar University’s Drama and Dramatics students, staged a total of 16 productions at Selim Al Deen Mukto Moncho, according to Janhangirnagar Shangskritik Jot Treasurer Shahadat Hossain Shadhin.
Among the private universities, Independent University Bangladesh Theatre Club performed “Jotsyna Raate Shobai Geche Bone” in their beautiful auditorium on November 14. All the seats of the two-storied auditorium were filled with people, who gave a standing ovation at the conclusion of the play.
Veterans return to the stage
Some veteran actors of the country returned to the stage after a very long hiatus. Minister of Cultural Affairs Asaduzzaman Noor and media personality Aly Zaker performed the play, “Galileo,” at the Experimental Theatre Hall of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy on November 6. The production by Nagorik Natya Sampradaya was sold out, so much so, that some leading news media could not attend the performance to cover it.
Famed theatre personality Sara Zaker performed in an adaptation of “Open Couple” in London on November 25. She herself adapted the play written by Dario Fo and Franca Rame, and directed the production for the Bangla Drama Festival season, organized by London Borough of Tower Hamlets.
Another veteran actor, Mamunur Rashid, performed in the play, “Iblish,” at the Bangladesh Mahila Samity auditorium on October 30. The play is a socio-political satire drama that tells the story of Rafik, who has a difficult relationship with his imam father, Munshi.
Mamunur Rashid said in a press statement: “Though it is a very old production, the relevance of ‘Iblish’ is still very strong in this day and age.”
“Iblish” was produced by the theatre group Aranyak Natyadal.
Plays in English performed in Dhaka
Popular actor and theatre personality Naila Azad Nupur directed and staged two adaptations this year: “The Begum’s Blunder” and “An Inspector Calls.” Both were adapted from classic plays and performed in English.
“The Begum’s Blunder” was staged on August 9 at The Junction, a small theatre at Niketan in Dhaka. It was very well received, with its innovative use of an apartment, and small stage space.
“An Inspector Calls” was a Jatrik production, which was staged at Bangladesh Mahila Samity auditorium from December 11 to 15. The cast included veteran actors like Samina Luthfa Nitra, Baizid Haque Joarder, Shakil Ahmed and Toufikul Islam Emon, as well as newcomers like Iresh Zaker, Mitul Mahmud, and Wasi Noor Azam.
The last three days of the production was sold out, and the play was lauded by many key theatre personalities of the country. Ramendu Majumdar called the adaptation a “100% success.”