Curtains Up on India’s Most Exciting Theatre Festivals!

From classic plays to experimental performances, a glimpse into India's dynamic theatre landscape.

Theatre has always offered a respite from the mundanity of daily life, providing a space to experience complex emotions, conflicting ideas, even bloodshed and mystery. It’s also a space that can challenge beliefs, inspire critical thinking and lead to the creation of revolutionary moments in history and society. From classics like Evam Indrajit (1963), Hayavadana (1975), Neel Darpan (1872), and Tughlaq (1966) to contemporary plays like Lavanyavati, Dekh Behen and Yin Yang, Indian theatre festivals have a rich legacy of casting a lens on the most complicated human emotions.​​ With the advent of modern innovations in storytelling and performance, these festivals have become more diverse and inclusive, reflecting the changing cultural landscape of the country. The NCPA Production of Every Good Boy Deserves Favour is a magnificent theatrical experience that illustrates this blend of innovation, featuring a 45-piece live orchestra. For those seeking such intense and cathartic experiences these enriching theatre festivals offer the perfect escape. 

Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards

Held annually across multiple venues in Delhi, the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META) has consistently explored various themes “ranging from contemporary and pressing social issues, mythology, gender, religion, caste, politics and classics, through the plays it has showcased.” With grand productions and powerful attempts at storytelling, it captures the true spirit of theatre by acknowledging not only the art of acting, but also the associated arts of playwriting, set, costume, light, sound and music design, direction etc. The award-winning plays staged over a week at META reveal a curatorially brilliant showcase that is bound to inspire and entertain theatre lovers from all across the country. 

You can check out their upcoming plays Nooramma: Biriyani Durbar and Daklakatha Devikavya and Notion(s): In Between You & Me at Shri Ram Centre and Kamani Auditorium in Delhi respectively.

Prithvi Festival

One of Mumbai’s best known theatres, Prithvi Theatre bears the legacy of Prithviraj Kapoor, one of the founding figures of Hindi Cinema, and flourishes to this day, as the foremost space for theatrical innovation in India. The Prithvi Festival organised by the theatre annually in November showcases premiers of new plays, music and dance performances in different languages including Marathi, Hindi, English, Urdu and Punjabi. Exploring the diversity of performing arts in the country, the festival has showcased plays based on local, national and international issues and sociopolitics. Renowned artists who have participated at the festival include Naseeruddin Shah, dancer Bijayini Satpathy, Adil Hussain, Neena Kulkarni, among many others. 

Aadyam Theatre

The Aadyam Theatre Festival is an interesting mix of both proscenium and experimental theatre and is one of the pioneering theatre initiatives in India. Coming back after a two-year gap post COVID, the festival has resumed a season of joy at venues across Delhi and Mumbai through shows and theatre-centric activities like podcasts, workshops, a theatre club and a blog. With renowned personalities like Shernaz Patel, Kyla D’Souza, Purva Naresh and Ira Dubey as part of the curatorial committee, you can expect some enriching performances at the theatre this year. 

Upcoming performances to look forward to at the festival include Girish Karnad’s Hayavadana and Douglas Carter Beane’s As Bees In Honey Drown.

Performance at Aadyam Theatre. Photo: Hyperlink Brand Solutions

Alwar Theatre Festival

Organised by the Rang Sanskar Theatre Group, the Alwar Theatre Festival is one of the foremost theatre festivals of Rajasthan, held every year. The theatre groups taking part this year include The Films and Theatre Society, Rang Mastane, Abhinaat Natya Sansthan and Vemedh Rangmanch, among others.  Some of the upcoming shows to look forward to this year include Ek Actor Ki Maut by Miro Gvran and Aadhi Raat Ke Baad by Shanker Shesh.

The shows will be held at the craft village of Alwar, also known as Shilp Gram between 27 and 28 March 2023.  

International Theatre Festival of Kerala

This is yet another festival to have resumed gracefully after a COVID-induced break, turning the city of Thrissur, Kerala into a spectacular showcase of art, dance, drama and dialogue. Organised by the Kerala Sangeetha Natak Academy and the Cultural Department of the Government of Kerala, the festival “puts together a whole range of work which includes devised plays, intermedial works that shift between mediums, classical plays and riffs on classic texts.” The line-up of performances at this year’s festival included the Tempest Project from France, Samson from South Africa, Ave Maria from Denmark, The Third Reich from Italy, Antigone from the UK, The Museum from Palestine, Told by My Mother from Lebanon, Do Not Believe Me if I Talk to You of War from Palestine and plays in Indian languages by theatre groups from all across India, including Telangana, Chennai, Puducherry, Manipur and others. 

Performance at the International Theatre Festival of Kerala. Photo: International Theatre Festival of Kerala (ITFOK)

For more articles on festivals in India, check out the Read section of this website.

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