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Alkazi Theatre Archives

Notes from the Archive

November 30, 2020

Meghdoot Terrace Theatre

Along with the members of the Theatre Unit in Bombay, when Alkazi was producing ‘practically the entire pantheon of western literature’, “from the Greeks to Beckett”, as he would describe, his urge to build a theatre structure, which would respond both to the post colonial definitions of modern sensibilities and economic sustainability, led Alkazi to turn the sixth-floor sea-facing terrace in Vithal court, near Kemp’s corner, to a space for theatre and interdisciplinary artistic stimulation. It was in the year 1958/59, “one day” as director Amal Allana recalls, “back in Bombay, he climbed up to the terrace of the building where he stayed, and asked the landlord, “Can I build a theatre here?” The landlord was taken aback but agreed to it. The theatre was called Meghdoot. He loved designing theatres…he was a man of great vision but could always materialize his ideas with simplicity.” 

The first of many architectural ventures, this permanent space created by Alkazi became the rehearsal and production grounds for numerous comedies and tragedies, which were performed every weekend and gave form to a strong repertoire system. Medea (1961), Waiting for Godot (1961), and Suddenly Last Summer (1961) along with restaging  of Volpone, were a few of the productions, which were produced in this open air terrace theatre. A Greek tragedy like Medea, which one could only imagine in a large space for performance, was stylistically accommodated in the backdrop of the open sky and the sound of the waves, to give realist intensity, with minimal setting and design with nature itself forming an indispensable part of this theatre architecture. 

Shifting the water tanks to one side of the terrace, Alkazi set up the main seating rostrum, directly opposite to the performance area and each side of the arena further had a three-tier seating arrangement. Within that stipulated space, Alkazi designed two separate wooden green rooms beneath the staircase and on the other side he made a lobby and a foyer.