Mumbai-based director Atul Kumar’s last play, Piya Behroopiya, achieved that impossible milestone — it was both critically lauded and commercially rewarded. An adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, it was staged at London’s Globe Theatre as part of the World Shakespeare Festival last year. Kumar and his troupe, The Company Theatre, have a different production this time around. Noises Off, a play-within-a-play, is the story of a theatre group that is attempting to mount a “cheap sex comedy” and doing everything wrong. Over phone from Mumbai, Kumar talks about the play.
After the success of Piya Behroopiya, do you feel any
pressure regarding your new production?
No pressure. Theatre is all that I have done for many years. Now, I am even being called ‘commercially successful’ for some strange reason. I went into Noises Off with full enjoyment. I react with my instinct, create a play, put it out there and wait for the audience reaction.
Noises Off showcases different phases in the process of creating a play, both backstage and on stage. How much of this is autobiographical?
In Noises Off, The Company Theatre is enacting the story of a theatre group that is trying to make a sex comedy called ‘Nothing On’. There are three layers. I love the farce and over-the-top buffoonery in this play. It is great comedy, in fact, it is the father of all play-within-a-play comedy. Also, at one point in the story, the stage is turned around so that the audience can see the backstage action that’s always hidden from their eyes. No art is created outside of our own personal experiences, so all incidents in the play are derived from my own life.
You were a Delhi boy who moved to Mumbai. Does staging a play in Delhi feel like a homecoming?
Always. I was born and brought up in Delhi, though I have been in Mumbai for the past 15 years. It’s always fantastic to present a play in Delhi, to an audience that laughs easily. If my play is 75 per cent funny, they make it seem 100 per cent funny.
Noises Off will be staged at