Sankar Venkateswaran[India]
"Indian Rope Trick"


Why do we overlook the “truths” that we think we see?
Sankar Venkateswaran’s latest work focuses on the mechanics of the “trick” woven into contemporary society.

Indian director Sankar Venkateswaran presented Criminal Tribes Act at last year’s TCT’19, cutting through the discriminatory structures lurking within individual and social unconscious. Through another co-production this year with Theater Commons Tokyo and Kyoto University of Art and Design’s Kyoto Performing Arts Center, Venkateswaran presents his latest work based on the Indian rope trick, a legend that has continued to capture people’s imaginations.
In societies where different ethnic and class groups coexist, majority forces use myths and narratives as tools of domination. When these stories are told repeatedly, they can become commonly held “truths.” We see ourselves accepting these narratives, including deception, propaganda, and fake news. The reality that people willingly believe stories as facts serves as a basis for building social structures. Led by Venkateswaran’s perspective that questions the construction of nationalist and ethnic- nationalist identities, the audience may encounter mystical shadows nestled deep within their interiority.

What is the Indian rope trick?
A magician brings a boy assistant to a square where people gather. As the magician performs his trick, the rope rises high into the sky. The boy climbs up the rope and disappears, seemingly forever. Then the magician follows suit, climbing up the rope and vanishing. The audience suddenly hears the boy scream, then watch his fragmented body parts fall from the sky. The magician climbs back down the rope. He casts a spell onto the body parts that revive the boy uninjured. The trick is recorded in several documents including a travel account by a fourteenth century Moroccan explorer. Various versions of this story exist. Many Indian magicians attempted to perform it in the nineteenth century.


Sankar Venkateswaran
Born in Calicut, Kerala in 1979, Sankar Venkateswaran studied directing at the School of Drama and Fine Arts, University of Calicut, after which he trained at the Theatre Training and Research Programme, Singapore. In 2013 he received the Ibsen Scholarship from Teater Ibsen, Norway, which furthered his work with the indigenous people in Attappadi, Kerala. His following works, including Criminal Tribes Act which premiered at Zurich Theater Spektakel in 2017, reflect the shift in his working context. In 2015 and 2016, Venkateswaran served as the artistic director for the International Theatre Festival of Kerala. During his term, the program emphasized South-South exchanges to resist the Eurocentric agendas of cultural practice. He gained attention in Japan with his production of Shogo Ota’s The Water Station at Kyoto Experiment 2016 autumn. Currently he lives and works out of the theatre he built in Attappadi.

©Gabriela Neeb


February 27th [Thu] / 19:00*Talk (after the performance), Moderator|Kyoko Iwaki (Theatre and Performance Lecturer at University of Antwerp)
February 28th [Fri] / 19:00

Performance times

approx. 70 min.


Libra Hall
1F Minato Park Shibaura, 1-16-1 Shibaura, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-0023

How to Participate

Booking essential. Show general admission pass on entry.
Buy Pass


English and Kannada (with Japanese subtitles)


Concept and Direction|Sankar Venkateswaran
Performers|Chandra Ninasam, Anirudh Nair, Sanjukta Wagh
Music|Sunilkumar P. K.
Scenography|Jean-Guy Lecat
Producer, Japanese subtitles|Satoko Tsurudome
Production|Sankar Venkateswaran, Kyoto Performing Arts Center at Kyoto University of Art and Design, Theater Commons Tokyo

Interpreter|Kanoko Tamura (Art Translators Collective)