10 Alternative Spaces
In a city abundant with theatre, it is a crime that we do not have more spaces to perform. So here goes my list of ten 'alternative' spaces. These are not regular spaces, but 'odd' places that performances happen.
- Horniman Circle Garden, Fountain: Easily the best utilised outdoor space in the city. Although it gets great use during the Kala Ghoda Festival, the need to have a stage and sponsor branding limits the lovely garden. I have strong memories of watching Industrial Theatre Company's Hayavadana, in there. The drummer in the bushes and Yuki Ellias in a tree, were very memorable images.
- Project 88, Colaba: Haven't seen too much over here. But it's sparse large room with pillars in between make it quite an interesting place to perform. Rehaan Engineer's 7 Jewish Children was set in an island of space. I believe other productions at the same venue have been very excitingly staged.
- Gallery Beyond, Rampart Row: Again I have only seen one production there, Jyoti Dogra's strange and weird The Doorway. But what it lacks in size it makes up for in atmosphere. It is an interesting rectangle with a stair case at one end. The management being warm and friendly, make this a space that could potentially transcend to 'regular' status.
- Sakshi Gallery, Worli: Keeping with the art gallery theme, Sakshi was one of the first places to encourage theatre performances. I saw Atul Kumar's The Blue Mug (Version 1.0) and Lady with Lapdog, in the space. Both made for interesting viewing. It is a pity it has stopped being used as much as it was. Especially with Worli and Lower Parel becoming such an energised hub, hopefully this can draw audiences in.
- Mikanos, Worli: Once again, Rehaan decided to dive where no theatre group has dived before. He used the large former nightclub as a promenade space, where the audience walked from scene to scene in the room, as it happened all around them. He completely ignored the stage at one end, and wisely so. When I saw Berkoff's Women performed on it, it lacked the power of the promenade format that Rehaan's Sexual Perversity in Chicago had.
- HUL Garden, Bandra: This turned out to be quite a surprise when it was picked as the performance space for last years Celebrate Bandra festival. No one, not even the residents who lived across the street from it, knew it existed. But it is a beautiful garden, and made for quite a special performance space. Once again it was a pity about the erected stage. Might have been more fun to perform using the natural landscape.
- Land's End Amphitheatre, Bandra: Nestled at the end of Bandra Bandstand, this is easily the city's most beautiful performance space. If regular plays were to happen there, I have no doubt that it would become one of Bombay's more popular theatre venues. Unfortunately it's biggest drawback is that it is next to the Taj Land's End. Therefore if there is a wedding/party/fashion show next door, any theatre performance gets drowned out. Hence plays are sporadic, though music concerts seem to be gaining popularity.
- David Sassoon Library, Kala Ghoda: Another lovely garden. A bit too close to the road for perfect silence, but the facade of the building lent itself beautifully to Imogen Butler-Cole's staging of Much Ado About Nothing. A space mainly used during the Kala Ghoda festival, it would be wonderful to see it used on 'winter' weekends.
- Indigo: Both productions I have seen at this restaurant I have actually been working on. Our production of Lunch Girls was staged in rather regular fashion, with the audience on the lower level of the terrace and the performer on the higher. But Gil Alon's Salome used the space magnificently. The audience were seated at tables just inside the perimeter of the terrace. The head table was reserved for Herod and other characters and the performance unfolded in the middle of this rectangle. Throw in courses of food being served at rehearsed intervals, and this made for a most fascinating and unique experience.
- National Gallery of Modern Art, Kala Ghoda: Unlike the other art galleries in the list, this actually has an auditorium. But the reason it makes the list, is because it's auditorium is a little bit weird. The two banks of audience are divided by the technical room. Therefore it often feels like you are performing to two different audiences. They have no connection between them. The small 10 x 20 stage is just about enough to perform on, and the wooden paneling, while beautiful, is sometimes distracting. Yet I enjoy this space. It has a lovely intimacy. At one point it was a very popular venue, but now due to the hike in rent and the deterioration of equipment, it is not used as much.
When I began this list, I never thought I would get all the way to ten. But I did. The city has untold treasures of performance spaces. There are other places too...Cafe Royale, Head Quarters, Three Flights Up, Tea Centre, etc. But the beauty of the alternative spaces, is when the productions adapt and create unique experience to the viewer.
If you have seen performances in non regular places, please let me know.