BENGALURU: Three years and 460 shows later, Sandbox Collective has carved a niche for itself in Bengaluru's thriving theatre scene. Behind the stage are two friends and now work partners — Nimi Ravindran and Shiva Pathak.
The duo met almost 14 years ago when they did a play together in 2003. By 2012, Nimi and Shiva curated a project called The Great Galata. "It was a coming together festival of sorts for theatre people in Bengaluru," says Nimi, writer, theatre director and arts manager.
From then on, there was no looking back for the duo. They had been talking about an arts collective and with their experience as theatre artists and art administrators, Sandbox Collective was born in 2013.
What has kept the audiences enthralled with the performances is that many of them take place in alternative spaces -- homes, classrooms, library, community halls and sometimes even a forest in Assam. This in fact has helped the collective to reach out to a larger audience.
There are challenges to adapting to a new space. "We have to re-adapt the show so that it is accessible to the audience and not unnecessarily challenging to the performing. We try not to disrupt the order of the places that we perform in, the idea is not to turn every space into an auditorium but to work within the context of the space and re-adapt the show to suit the space."
The collective's first production was a solo performance by Anish Victor titled 'Koogu'. It has been so successful that it performed 108 shows across the country and closed in November 2016, exactly three years after it took stage.
Like the spaces that they inhabit, the works the collective puts out are "contemporary and cutting edge". "For instance, we produced a performance installation on Hansel and Gretel by a company from Switzerland called Trickster P. It was a beautiful combination of theatre and visual arts," says Nimi. She adds, "We also produced Remote X by Rimini Protokoll, Berlin, that was a participatory performance that redefined the notion of audience and performers."
Although there is no preference for topics or themes that they cover, there are works that debate sexuality and gender.
"Our production Queen-Size is a response to Section 377 of the IPC that criminalises gay sex in India. Our latest production No Rest in the Kingdom is a comedy about the travails of growing up as a woman in India and the casual misogyny one encounters from friends and family," says Nimi.
And it is the same interest that prompted the collective to start Gender Bender, an annual arts festival held in association with the Goethe Institut. This year, it will be held in August.
What has kept the collective motivated and raring to go is the public response. "The public response is great.. in three and a half years we've done 460 shows. And that's a lot," says Nimi.
But even with the phenomenal public response, like many other arts initiatives, funding has been a worry for Sandbox Collective too. "We receive no government support, nor money from any corporation.. We have however worked in collaboration with cultural agencies like The Goethe Institut, and Pro Helvetia on various projects. The majority of our monies come from ticket sales," she says.
Queen Size will be travelling to London and they will soon begin work on two international productions this year.