Theatre as Life
SP Vagishwari
REHEARSING FOR LIFE: theatre FOR SOCIAL CHANGE IN NEPAL by Monica Mottin Cambridge University Press, New Delhi, 2018, 287 pp., 1495
March 2019, volume 43, No 3

Theatre has been the oldest art form known to humankind—an art form that surpasses class barriers to facilitate an egalitarian representation of community’s aspirations, ideas and responses. In fact it is an evocative medium that articulates the identities of societies all over the world. As Monica Mottin remarks, her intent is to probe how reflectivity and ambiguity can allow for the aesthetic space to become a transformative space. Rehearsing for Life: Theatre for Social Change in Nepal is a scholarly work, which explores the various genres of theatre in Nepal as well as their association with specific groups.

The author, in seven chapters, maps the evolution and progress of Kachahari natak (forum/street, theatre), Lokatantrik natak (theatre for democracy), and Krantikari natak (revolutionary theatre), the last being a part of the Maoist movement in Nepal. The work also mentions in detail, the funding tribulations faced by theatre groups, to deal with which the Aarohan Theatre Group, a Kathmandu based professional company, stages donor funded projects.

The text traces the history of evolution of theatre in Nepal and points to an interesting contradiction. Theatre in Nepal received royal patronage till the 18th century, wherein kings authored plays and performed too on platforms known as dabali or dabu located in the vicinity of palace, temples or the centre of a locality. However, this stopped by the 19th century. Though political power was legitimized through rituals and worship, theatre ceased to be an integral part of this new dispensation. It was only with the beginning of the 20th century that winds of changes were witnessed, with increased performing arts influences coming from across the borders, like India. The chapter titled ‘Theatre and Life’ provides an extremely interesting account of the transformations occurring in Nepali theatre throughout the 20th century. From its association with the National School of Drama from India to the role of the Aarohan in adapting the works of Sophocles, Sartre and Camus for Nepali audience, the chapter is rich with details of Nepali playwrights.

Continue reading this review