Biennale art room transforms into improvised theatre space

Kochi, Feb 20: Margherita Marincola keeps the entry point simple: introduce yourself and sing a favourite song. That’s the icebreaker the French-Italian actor-director has devised, finding the desired result at her workshop alongside the Kochi-Muziris Biennale.

For three days from Tuesday, Margherita is conducting a theatre workshop at the key Cabral Yard venue in Fort Kochi. ‘Exploring space — Intensive Acting’ aims at freeing the trainees from inhibitions so as to perform better on the stage.

“In theatre, one should be free from all apprehensions,” she notes. “Hence the exercises here. These are techniques that will help the participants feel comfortable in a new group so as to emote and act unfettered,” points out Margherita, who has followed her parents’ Compagnie Picatrix theatre troupe.

To the artiste, this workshop is for both performers and non-performers. “It is for anyone who would like to explore their creativity through stage and performance. One would want to become a more creative performer,” adds Margherita, who has often worked backstage helping with costumes and props and assisting the theatre director Lionel Véran, who taught her the basics of stage direction.

At the Biennale art room here, she uses simple exercises and techniques of the improvisational theatre world to the benefit of the participants. The idea is to make the participant understand different measures of space and how to utilise each of them optimally, explains Margherita, a graduate in Indian Performing Arts at University of Vicenza in Italy. “While many of the activities are the same, the goal is more than just getting to be a good actor. It’s to understand space and how one could use it without making the audiences realise it.”

Margherita, who was born into a family of artists, started studying Western classical violin at the age of eight. Then, in 2004, she travelled to India to study Hindustani vocal under eminent artists. Her gurus continue to be Bhaskar Subramanian, Ajay Pohankar and Krishna Mohan Bhatt. In 2014 she won the prestigious Amici del Conservatorio prize for her singing performance at the Music Conservatory of Vicenza. “I have always been fascinated with Indian culture and history. Music has been a connecting link,” shares the multi-facetted artist, who now shuttles between India and France.

The art room workshop further aims to teach more about body language and voice modulation. “One has to also understand the surrounding and adapt according to it. Theatre is not restricted to auditoriums, it can be performed at any space,” she notes, giving participants exercises on movements to understand ways to adapt to a new space. “As a theatre actor, one should be open to perform at any public venue.”

The day one, Margherita’s trainees also had a close look at four installations at the biennale’s main Aspinwall House venue. They were of Shirin Neshat, Shilpa Gupta, Song Dong and B V Suresh. “All these are not just thought-provoking, but ones emphasising on the importance of space. The exercise will continue,” adds the artiste, who later let her trainees do an improvised piece at nearby Pepper House as a reflection of the biennale experience.

At the end of the workshop, the artiste plans to do a performance based on late Englkish playwright Sarah Kane’s work called 4.48 Psychosis. Ahead of that, Margherita has divided the participants into groups of five, having spread the pages of the play on the floor. Each group picks five pages each. “The idea is to see how one performs when the time for preparation is limited and you get random fragments of a scene,” shares the mentor who has appeared as guest artist in the Indian TV series Chidiya Ghar (Hindi) and Uncha Mazaa Zoka (Marathi).

Atul Ramkumar is an acting student who has come for the workshop with his classmates of K.R. Narayanan National Institute of Visual Science and Arts in Kottayam, 60 km south of Kochi. “It was interesting to act and also see how each group reacted to the text they got,” he says. “We got only five minutes to prepare but we learned an array of techniques like different ways to see the fragments, space utilisation, emphasis on elements of the text.”

Just before this exercise, the participants were asked to use a dupatta as a prop and enact without dialogues. “It was interesting to see how different participants used the dupatta to express,” Aadira Srinivasan, a graduate from Delhi who was visiting Biennale. “I have never attended a workshop like this before. I just want to try my hand in acting.”

VISITING THE BIENNALE

“The fourth edition of Kochi-Muziris Biennale runs from 12 December, 2018 – 29 March, 2019.“
Venues are open every day from 10 AM – 6 PM.
Tickets are available for purchase for ₹100 at Aspinwall House.

Universal free entry every Monday.

GETTING TO FORT KOCHI

By Air: Fort Kochi is 45 km from Kochi International Airport, Nedumbassery.
By Train: Fort Kochi is 13 km from Ernakulam Junction (South) Station and 16 km from Ernakulam Town (North) Station.
By Boat: Fort Kochi is 20 mins from the Ernakulam Boat Jetty and 10 mins from both Willingdon Island and Vypin Boat Jetty.
By Bus: Fort Kochi is 15 km from the main bus station in Ernakulam.

Many of the locations of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale are walking distances from each other (most are around 10 minutes or so).

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