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In communion with cats

V Balakrishnan, the founder and artistic director of the Chennai-based Theatre Nisha talks about SPACES, the theatre company's rehearsal space

A rehearsal at SPACES
A rehearsal at SPACES

V Balakrishnan, the founder and artistic director of the Chennai-based Theatre Nisha, is a busy man. He is directing a scenic reading of Roland Schimmelpfennig's Tin Soldier, and the Paper Ballerina, is working on three one-person plays, which will be performed on January 4 in Chennai, and is planning to travel to Bengaluru with his play Marghazi in February. This means, of course, that he is spending a lot of time at Theatre Nisha's rehearsal space. He talks about this space and his relationship with it in an email interview.

Describe your current workspace to us.

We are currently working at SPACES, a very picturesque open place in Besant Nagar, opposite the beach. When you enter the space, you feel you are in a time warp, as you are greeted by abundant trees and the aesthetic architecture of a kalari and a koothambalam. Actors and artists of other disciplines can be found creating and recreating. The aura is of a space resplendent with energy and joy. Also, you share the space with cats and birds; the cats are now our regular audience. 

A regular audience
A regular audience

Has it always been this way? Or has it evolved over the years?

We were earlier working at a library, as in a shared space concept, but the pandemic, unfortunately, made us quit that space. 

How would you define your daily relationship with this space?

We like to maintain the required discipline for the space (no eating, littering). We also like to clean the space before we start as a ritual for ourselves. The space is agog with energy and love, and we love to work and dream here. 

Tell us about some of the eureka moments you have had and major works that you have done from here.

Theatre work is a non-stop flow of eureka moments and what the Greeks like to call koinonia — a communion. I have premiered many of my plays at SPACES, including Mata Hari, The Nine Unknown Men, Yayati, The Peacock Prince, and many more. 

What would it be if you were to trade in this place for another?

I wouldn't trade in this place; there is none like it. But, push comes to shove, it would be a step down to some enclosed space.

Any narrative you think has great theatre potential? Is it something you intend to work on at some point? 

I have always loved reading deep into the Mahabharata and am planning a play on 'Asthika, who saved the Nagas. 

V Balakrishnan
V Balakrishnan

What has the pandemic done to the theatre? Both at a broad macro level and for you personally? 

It has opened new routes and vistas for exploration and created fresh conduits for creating a communion, both at a macro and a micro-level. It has increased the audience and enhanced the experience of viewing theatre. 

Creative Corner is a series about writers, artists, musicians, founders and other creative individuals and their relationships with their workspaces.



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