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Going Solo: A New Solo Theatre Festival Tours the Country

Teamwork Arts’ Going Solo festival will tour the country this month with performances of ‘Churchill’, ‘Adolf’ and ‘At The Edge’ starring Pip Utton and Jailoshini Naidoo.

1 Oct, 2013

Deborah Cornelious

Contributing Writer

During the 2012 edition of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Pip Utton staged a riveting performance of his one-man show ‘Churchill’ to an audience that included Sanjoy Roy of Teamwork Arts, the firm that produces the Jaipur Literature Festival amongst other performing, visual and literary arts events. It was, perhaps, this production that set the ball rolling for Utton to become part of what is being promoted as India’s first ever solo international theatre festival – Going Solo. As part of the festival, Teamwork Arts will stage three shows over the course of three days each in Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi. According to Roy, the deliberate choice of presenting solo theatre was so the festival could be “dedicated to showcasing the unique ability of an actor to connect with an audience. It is, in essence, the age-old tradition of storytelling at its most powerful.”

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Of the three one-person acts being presented, Utton (pictured above as Adolf Hitler) will perform two. A former jeweller and trained gemmologist, Utton took the plunge to pursue his true passion, acting. In 1997, the self-trained actor authored and directed ‘Adolf’, a chilling enactment of Hitler during his final days. The show, which completed two decades at the Fringe earlier this year, will travel all the way to Indian shores along with another Utton production, ‘Churchill’. A fine stage actor, Utton is perhaps more renowned for his body of solo work. He has brought to life Quasimodo (from ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’), Charlie Chaplin, Francis Bacon and even Charles Dickens. “I am more fascinated by the opportunity to reveal a character through their own words than through the remarks and inferences of others,” explained Utton in an email interview with NH7. “We all know that these people are dead but if I can get it right, then the audience should feel that they have spent some time with the person.”

‘Adolf’ has, in the past, disconcerted audiences to the point of them walking out, which once compelled Utton to break character and reassure those who remained seated. As the supremacist tyrant, the actor prepares for the end and engages in conversation with his subjects about suicide and escape. Then, there are those oratory skills Hitler was so famous for. Utton has been known to deliver them with vociferous effect, allowing people a sort of firsthand glimpse into his version of Hitler’s skewed ideology. But when Utton draws parallels to contemporary situations, it just goes to show that all is not as hunky dory as we’d like to believe.

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At the other end of WWII political spectrum, ‘Churchill’ will also come alive during Going Solo. While the play will reference the English politician’s career, its highs and low, there are also several knee-slapping moments. Utton’s writing will let people in on little-known facts while heavily focusing on Churchill’s personality – case in point, his relationship with his wife, Clemmie. You’d think it would be burdensome taking on the role of two great characters and performing them with so little time in between. But Utton, in true English style, simply has a large cup of tea, changes costume and marches onward. “The characters and the plays are so completely different that there is little chance of any muddles.”

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Going Solo’s concluding performance, ‘At The Edge’, comes from South African TV presenter and actor Jailoshini Naidoo (pictured above). Naidoo will attempt to recreate life in Cato Manor, an area which – notorious for its riots in 1950 and finally destruction in ’58 – saw a significant number of Indian inhabitants. The solo act is a revival of Ronnie Govender’s ‘At The Edge And Other Cato Manor Stories’, a book that won the Best First Book award at the 1997 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Africa. During the hour-long performance, Naidoo will portray several people who lived in the South African locality. Her transition from character to character, some of them men and children, showcases the different realities lived during the time, while addressing themes like racial segregation, poverty and discrimination. For instance, ‘At The Edge’ includes the story of an old man who has brought heaven and earth together to build his home. When the government relocates his family, the man refuses to leave, fighting till the end. “’At the Edge’ tells the stories of a community of Indian origin who strive to make a better life in a foreign land,” Naidoo told NH7. “We witness their journey which often just enables us to share a day in their lives, their eccentricities, uniqueness, loves, losses.”

The folks at Teamwork Arts plan to keep Going Solo international in nature, hoping to expand the number of productions and their geographical reach over the next editions.For tickets, go here, and check out the festival schedule below.

October 11 – 13: MLR, Bangalore
October 16 – 18: FICCI Auditorium, Delhi
October 19 – 21: Sophia Bhabha Hall, Mumbai

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