Bharathakoothu IX: Participatory Theatrical Events

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Published on: 26 September 2018

M.D. Muthukumaraswamy

M.D. Muthukumaraswamy is a Tamil writer, Director of National Folklore Support Centre, Chennai and a Consultant at Sahapedia.

The villagers perform many episodes from the Mahabharata as extended and participatory events. Prominent among them are the burning of the lacquer palace, the slaying of Bakasura, the fight for cattle, Arjuna's penance, the marriage of Draupadi, and the final war of Kurukshetra. Blurring the distinctions between ritual, theatre and social gathering, these performances in the cycle of Bharathakoothu may qualify as what Richard Schechner calls  'environmental theatre'. While the environmental theatre movement aimed to heighten audience awareness by eliminating the distance between the actor and audience; in the extended theatrical events of Bharathakoothu that take place all over the village, the audience becomes a part of the play. Further collective action and participation from the audience in the events give Bharathakoothu an unparalleled uniqueness.