As part of pretending that I’m still somewhat being productive on my trip around the world, I’m trying to see at least one play in each country that I visit. This gives the impression that I’m doing research and getting inspired for future projects.

Weirdly, I’ve been more successful in my non-mission of eating a burger in each place I visit (there will be a burger round-up in August).

After a failed attempt to see a play in Cambodia (on World Theatre Day of all days!) due to cloudy weather and nausea (thanks, malaria tablets!), I was keen to make up for it in India, a country with strong and vital theatrical traditions. So I saw two plays. Two! I win.


Man applying makeup.


Another man applying different makeup.

In Kochi, I got the chance to take a tourist’s peak into Kathakali, a type of classical dance-drama from the state of Kerala, at a lovely and air conditioned wooden theatre in the old city.

Usually very long (like, 8 hours), they cut and dumbed this one down for tourists, complete with a make-up application demonstration and a quick run-through of the gestures and their meanings. I read the synopsis in two languages and still couldn’t quite follow the plot and my mind wandered a bit.  But I got to see what I’d learned about in my World Theatre course in 2006 in action, so I felt pretty good about that. And the costumes were quite amazing.


In full costume, a type of demon boar.


The boar and the lady.


The main character, being egotistical (spoiler: at the end he’s enlightened and no longer full of ego).

And then, on my last day in India, I was treated to Gasha by the Indian Ensemble Theatre in the beautiful and sleek theatre space Rangashankara in Bangalore.

As the contemporary play was in Urdu, Hindi, and Kashmiri, all I understood that sometimes the two characters were at school (“If you concentrate, you will go far”) and that there was a dead dog at one point.

Though I was completely right on those two points, my friend explained everything to me afterwards and what I thought had been a joyful story of a friendship was quickly revealed to be about the horrors of the political conflicts in Kashmir.

I loved the use of the simple props and quick shift between characters by actors Bhat and Sandeep Shikhar. And the theatre itself made me feel so at home (Torontonians, it was very close to the Dance Theatre). But I guess with a play like this where accents and quick dialogue, it would make sense to understand at least one of the languages spoken…