Performing in the midst of nature is not my strength.

I have tried many times before and have always felt overwhelmed by the sheer presence of nature – she is indomitable. And here I was – at Under the Sal Trees, the annual theatre festival organised and hosted by Badungduppa – a theatre collective based in Rampur, Goalpara district.

The 2015 festival marked many firsts:

It was the first time that the concept of eco-tourism was being tied in to the performance festival.

For the first time solo performances had being invited.

Koogu was performing in Assam for the very first time, and that too in Hindi.

Koogu was to close the festival, comprising 6 performances, spread over three days – so the expectations were high. The performance space, as always, was a flattened mud surface in a clearing smack in the middle of a forest of Sal trees. The forest has been nurtured by the Rabha tribe over generations.

The audience began gathering 20 minutes before the performance. Mostly, people from the villages nearby attend – but this time there was also a group of teachers from a college in Guwahati, about 140 kilometres away. I walked around greeting and conversing with the audience as they arrived. I started the process of getting a better sense of the audience – but somewhere at the back of my head, the looming trees worried me. As the performance began and moved – I could feel the force of nature beginning to act on me. She made her presence felt – a rustle here, a bird-call there, a soft creaking of branches…and also a stillness, which I’ve realised – only she is capable of.

And here I was…

I cannot find the words to describe the feeling of sensing nature in performance. She has her own rhythm that signals and establishes her presence. While I learnt long time back – not to fight that rhythm…I am still learning to play along with it.

There were moments in the performance when I felt overwhelmed and weak but there were also moments when I was able to strike a chord with nature’s rhythm. The key, it seems, is to ‘give in’ and submit rather than resist. She then holds and carries you… again, I have no words to describe the feeling…

Written by Anish Victor

Performer, Koogu

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