Nepali playback theatre turns oneThis New Year marks the first anniversary of the Nepali Chautari Naatak Samuha, Nepal’s active Playback Theatre group.
This New Year marks the first anniversary of the Nepali Chautari Naatak Samuha, Nepal’s active Playback Theatre group.
For a year, Nepal Chautari Naatak Samuha, a Kathmandu-based theatre group, has been putting together stagings of the playback theatre—a form of drama wherein the actors, after listening to the stories told by audiences, enact them back on stage, in real time, on the spot. This spontaneity, with solicit engagement from the audience, forms the soul of this evolving form of drama, which was first introduced by the duo of Jonathan Fox and Jo Salas, in 1975.
Currently, Chautari Naatak Samuha has been performing varieties of multiple simple short-form sequences and complex long-form sequences.
A typical process of Playback Theatre starts with short-form sequences where the Conductor helps audience warm up by encouraging them to open up about how they are feeling or what’s on the top of their mind. As soon as the audience answers, the playbackers enact it on the spot. After a few sequences, as the audiences start relaxing, the Conductor leads them through more serious storytelling, where the audiences share a fragment of their lives—for example, the happiest or the saddest moments in their lives. In rare instances though, when a story told by the audience cannot be enacted, the story is played back in the form of a two-minute poetry recital.
“This kind of play is very different from rehearsed plays. This is a therapeutic technique. They help the storyteller rewrite the narrative and sometimes even provide closure to the painful memories,” Akanchha Karki of the Chautari said.
Reflecting on the takeaways from the inaugural year, she added, “The thing about playing back is that one has to be very passionate about the art form. The performance is all about making art for art’s sake. One of the best takeaways from the past year is the formation of a core group of eight to ten playbackers who live and breathe theatre.”
Currently, the playback performers have committed to meet three to four times a month, and put up a show at least once a month. Karki informs that the audiences participating in the playback theatre has been on the rise—with their number ranging from 50 to 100.
The performance takes place on the first day of every Nepali month at Manjari Theatre, in Mokshanda School, starting at 4 pm.