By Nikhil Jayakrishnan
Lokadharmi theatre group was officially registered on March 26, 1997, six years after it had begun in Kochi as an informal organisation of theatre enthusiasts. Fast forward to exactly twenty years, and Lokadharmi will open its own dedicated space on the 27th of March.
For Chandradasan, theatre director, actor, playwright and founder of Lokadharmi, the new space, located at Manattuparambu East, Vypin, brings into fruition a dream he had nurtured for years. Over the 25 years since it was formed, Lokadharmi has been an active force in fostering appreciation of theatre by staging performances and conducting acting classes, where students were acquainted with indigenous performing traditions as well as those from around the world, from the Greek and Elizabethan theatre to the modern theatre of Stanislavsky, Brecht et al. After having relied on spaces like Changampuzha Park and the Fine Arts Hall for its operations, Chandradasan will now be able to bring together all of his activities to a single venue.
I caught up with Chandradasan, all packed up for a trip to Thiruvananthapuram for a performance of ‘Kali Natakam’ a play written by Sajitha Madathil which he’s directed. The play, which features Sajitha in the lead as Kali, has held several performances since it was first staged at Pepper House. But the veteran theatre director had enough time on his hands to afford an interview. On the venue that will be inaugurated on Monday, Chandradasan said, “The new facility is being constructed in two phases – phase one, which is almost complete, includes spaces for theatre workshops and full-time courses and a centre for research into performance traditions. Phase two, which is yet to begin, involves the construction of a full-fledged theatre that can accommodate an audience of up to 200.”
Chandradasan has financed the first phase of the project himself by selling his property. For the second phase, he will be depending on grants by sponsors, and will need another two years before it is complete. The theatre, he remarked, will be one that can suit varying styles of staging, be it the proscenium arch, round, thrust or traverse.
The facility has been designed by architects from COSTFORD, and the laterite structure tries to bring the best of aesthetic values with minimal ecological impact. “We have tried as much as possible to stick to eco-friendly materials, at the same time ensuring that all the essentials of a good theatre space – acoustics, seating and the like – are of the best quality. We are also setting up a rainwater harvesting plant in the site to minimise dependence on groundwater,” he said.