Ibsen in the Bazaar: A Study of the Norwegian Playwright in British India

April 22, 4:00-5:00 p.m. CT

This presentation explores the Janet Achurch and Charrington theatre company’s productions of A Doll’s House in Calcutta (1891), the first production of any of Henrik Ibsen’s plays in India, to document how the peripheral space of the British colony of India responded to the Achurch-Charrington company’s attempts to Ibsenise the English stage. I argue that at a time when critics all over the world were divided over Ibsen’s reception, as they read him either “as a prophet, saviour,” or a “literary carrion, dismal and repulsive,” Ibsen’s aesthetics could not find a home in the peripheral space of British India for three reasons: competition with theatrical and non-theatrical shows, absence of an India-centric entertainment model, and the audiences’ inability to understand Ibsen’s aesthetics. Overall, the presentation identifies the distinct nature of Ibsen’s aesthetics by exploring how his play was used for a political purpose in colonial India.

About the Speaker

Dr. Prateek is a Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellow at Northwestern University. He also holds the position of Assistant Professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS), Pilani, India. He completed his PhD in theatre studies at the University of Queensland, Australia, with visiting fellowships at Humboldt University and Oxford. He wrote his MPhil at Jawaharlal Nehru University, India. He is a former Fulbright fellow at Yale University. His monograph, Brecht in India: The Poetics and Politics of Transcultural Theatre (2021), was published by Routledge, UK.