My wife and myself are currently holidaying in Kochi and earlier this evening we attended the Greenix Village Kathakali Make-Up and Show from 1700-1900 hours.
It took place in a comfortable theatre with an enthusiastic audience of around 50. We arrived late but caught the tail end of the Make-Up session which overran slightly but provided a good insight of what we would be seeing in the subsequent Show!
Indeed, the Show itself was well presented and clear instructions were given before each of the 3 performances of which the latter 2 were carried out through a series of hand and eye movements. A little hard to follow, but most interesting to watch with the only complication being a short power outage which - to their credit - didn’t appear to throw any of the performers off their stride.
I'm generally pretty skeptical of traditional performances, and often consider them something to "check off the list." This, however, was by far the most interesting traditional performance I've ever seen. If you arrive about 30 minutes early, you can see the actors doing their makeup, and while that might sound boring, it is fascinating to see the transformation.
After that, the group does a demonstration of some of the skills, techniques, and movements associated with Kathakali, clearly showing why it takes 6 years of training to perform. During this demonstration, they show you some common hand motions that express the "sign language" of Kathakali and the intricate facial expressions used to express emotions. It is impressive, but also helps you understand the actual performance better. The demonstration lasted about 30 minutes.
Lastly, they finish with the actual performance, which took somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour. As some reviews below say, it's a bit long (especially Scene 1), but they have already condensed a 9-hour play into less than an hour. It is genuinely interesting and gives you an opportunity to see some of the motions and expressions learned in the demonstration.
This place was awesome, and my favorite part of Kochi. Wish I'd had time to see the martial arts and musical performances, as well.