Posts Tagged ‘theatre’

Theatre Review: “Monsters in the Dark”, Bangalore Little Theatre, Ranga Shankara, 270219

February 28, 2019


Cast and crew taking a bow after the performance.Photo: Deepa Mohan

“The Emperor of All Maladies”, a Pulitzer-winning book by Siddharth Mukherjee is an intense book about that dreaded “C” word…cancer, and looks at the dread ailment via multiple lenses…history, biography, describing the several discoveries, obstacles,triumphs and failures in humanity’s long journey with, and battle against, cancer.

To base a play on a book like this is a major challenge, and Bangalore Little Theatre rose up to that challenge with their play, which I watched at Ranga Shankara on the 27th of February, ’19. The theatre group had produced an excellent brochure, which described the play. I skimmed through it, wanting to let the theatre experience wash over me, without preconceptions.

The play was indeed as intense as the book; cancer is viewed like a kaleidoscope, from the opening scene of the “oncomice” (patented in the process of studying cancer), to how it feels to be diagnosed with the dread disease; from the scientists and doctors who made their contributions to the therapy, their right and wrong decisions; the ethics committees that sat in judgement on them, often hindering or stopping protocols; the suffering of cancer patients, the positivity and negativity they face from those around them, and the mental framework of the survivors. The references were more to leukaemia in children, which is a very emotional issue. The denouement and the climax of the play comes with a zing, and a hark-back to the beginning, that I cannot reveal without spoiling the suprise!

The stage design was well done; one area was designated as a kind of lab set up, where doctors and scientists could be seen pondering and worrying over tests and results; another, with two step-ladders (why did the two actors have to sit on different levels was never clear to me), represented the ethics committee’s sessions. A bench also became a hospital bed with the addition of a saline drip stand, and two chairs and a table at the left of the stage became an area where a friendship between two people blossoms into love, while one of them is diagnosed with cancer, though she is training to be an oncologist herself.

The costumes that the cast wore were very interesting. All of the cast, except for the character of the budding oncologist, wore very smart dungarees/overalls; the addition of coats, lab coats, or lace-edged ponchos demarcated the differentiation in the characters portrayed.

The dialogue was another very difficult part of the play, consisting, as it did, of many technical terms and names of protocols and processes. The playwrights tried to overcome this difficulty by simplifying as much as they could, and also using a blackboard to write some of the figures (such as 41,000 doctors who responded to a survey, or the names of the V.A.M.P protocol) so that they were clear to the audience. In spite of this, the jargon did tend to overwhelm us and we struggled, also, to keep up with the names of the doctors and scientists; some who wanted glory, and some who were truly dedicated. I must compliment the cast on their excellent command of these difficult lines, and the clear diction which ensured that the audience got the names well.

The music in the production was a major part of it. From the drum that heightened the tension in scenes, the music at every point underscored the narrative of the play, and the building tension of unfolding events. The eerie tune of “Three Blind Mice”m played on the harmonica, heightened the fact that not only the laboratory mice but the patients themselves, are sometimes the guinea pigs of those who try to work out a cure for this disease, trying new treatments and protocols on hapless sufferers.

The lighting was extremely effective too, highlighting the action at different parts of the stage, and picking up expressions such as Dastan’s amorous humour, Deeksha’s study-related tensions, or the sadness on Carla’s face as she realizes her illness. The darkness made space and time for the shifting of the stage props such as the benches, and stools, the positions for which were clearly marked on the floor of the stage.

The direction was one of the best parts of the production I watched; by being unseen, it was all the more effective. However, I would certainly suggest that a certain looseness in the production could be tightened up, which would also cut short the length of the play. I think, that with more stagings of the play, this may be done.

This is not a play for those who are looking for an evening of candy-floss escape from the real world; it brings the audience face to face with the enemy within us, that humanity has faced, fought, overcome and succumbed to, over time. It showed us how ambition or vainglory can sometimes trump compassion and empathy; but it also brought us the stories of those who conquered the illness, those who made breakthroughs in the treatments and ended with the statement that negated the title of the book on which it is based: “It is not the emperor of maladies”, but just the foe that must, and should, be conquered. A worthy effort by Bangalore Little Theatre, and I look forward to watching further productions of this play to see how it evolves.

Monsters in the Dark, by Bangalore Little Theatre
Ranga Shankara, 27 Feb ’19
75 min
Playwrights: Ravi Chari, Kavya Srinivasan
Directors: Murtuza Khetty, Deepak Mote
Costumes and Set: Aruna Nori
Cast: Abhishek Sundaravadanan, Deepthi Adappa, Disha Mittal, Khyati Raja, Meera Girijan, Minti Jain, Paawan Mukker, Prabha Venkatesh, Ratneshwar Bannerghaee, Shreekant Road, Shreya Sen, Sneha Sridhar, Vignesh Suresh
Backstage: B N Rangashre, Vinay Kambappa, Vaidya Ojha
Music: Aniruddh G, Harmonica
Tickets: Rs.200

Production supported by a grant from Kusum and Mohandas Pai and contributions from Bangalore Little Theatre, Health and Humanities, St. John's Research Institute, and Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai.

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“Bali” at Ranga Shankara, 230219, by Adishakti

February 26, 2019

It had been quite a while since I went to Ranga Shankara for a play, and the blurb about “Bali” was interesting enough to pull me in. Here’s the quotation from the excellent brochure that was handed out before the play:

“Adishakti’s Bali is a retelling of the various events that lead up to the battle between Bali and Ram and eventually, the death of Bali. The play explores the notion of right and wrong, and how it may change when each and every character is given an opportuntiy to voice their thoughts and opinions.”

With this intriguing introduction, I went in to watch the play, and it did not disappoint. From the very first scene, the intensity of the tension was kept up. The play did not always proceed in a linear fashion, but used a pastiche of scenes to put over the premise, that what is right or wrong changes according to who is telling the story…Bali, Tara, Sugriva, Angadha, Ram…or Ravan.

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The cast and crew take a bow after the performance.

Let me discuss the technical aspects of the production first. The actors were all very lithe and some of the choreography reminded me of Kalaripayattu move in the agility. This contributed a lot to the denouement of the narrative.

The actors were all quite word perfect, and there was not a single “flub” in the production I watched.Since no masks were used (I was wondering if they would be), facial expressions came across clearly, and indeed, in several scenes, were intensified to nearly a mime effect.

The music was excellent throughout. The audience responded to the music as much as to the action on stage, and it heightened the intensity to a great degree. When the music stopped, the silences were quite as eloquent.

The costumes were what I call “contemporary ethnic”. While not precisely ethnic, they were in the flowing, easy lines, enabling easy mobility; a couple of “filmy” costumes notwithstanding, they felt quite authentic. The little tableau of Vali and Sugriva twitching up the ends of their dhotis to tie up at the waist was very entertaining, and one of the few times I have seen costumes form a part of the action!

The stage was, intriguingly, completely bare, and apart from a kind of stand in the “theru koothu” presentation scenes, continued so. This put more pressure on the cast to take forward the play without the help of props…another unusual feature, in a play set on a mythological figure. The few props that were used, such as stones,rolling balls, and ropes, were sometimes understandable, sometimes (as in the scene of two women alternately reaching for the stones and fighting over them) a little obscure.

The lighting was also of a very high order. Characters were highlighted, the colours changed with the mood in the action, and the lighting enhanced the mood of the play at every scene.

The play alternated between a “regular” stage and a “theru koothu” (street plays of Tamil Nadu”) format. In the latter, more exaggeration was permitted, to convey the ideas and emotions. The cast, too, were dressed in more allegorical costumes.

Given all these technical inputs, the play effectively put across its message. Though some parts were still a little puzzling ( I never worked out the character of the female companion of Tara…who was she, what did she represent?) in the main, the high energy of the play sustained throughout the performance, and set the audience to introspecting….what is right or wrong? Who is an enemy, who is a friend? Can someone be slain in secret? Can another man’s wife be taken as one’s own, as part of victory? (Rama’s hidden slaying of Vali is, through the centuries, one of the most controversial part of the Ramayana.) We, as an audience, felt, in fact, drained at the end of the performance, having sustained an emotional and energy high through the 70-minute performance.

I am also intrigued by calling the play “Bali” instead of “Vali”. The wiki entry on Vali tells me that the name is often spelt Bali in many Indian languages, but to me, the name is Vali, so I am still wondering if there was a specific reason to spell it in the Bengali/Assamese/Oriya way.

I was very impressed by the direction. Such high-energy productions can easily run away with the narrative or the emotions, and to guide the performance and yet not be seen to be obviously doing so, is quite a feat!

All in all, not one of the light-entertainment plays that one goes to, to get away from the stresses and strains of the everyday world, but one that made me feel, and think, intensely. Hats off to Adishakti, and I hope I will get the chance fo watch more of their work!

“Bali”, by Adishakti Laboratory for Theatre Arts Research
Written and directed by Nimmy Raphael
Cast: Vinay Kumar, Arvind Rane, Ashiqa Salvan, Kiyomi Mehta, Rijul Ray
Music arragned and composed by Vinay Kumar and played by Meedhu Miriyam
Music for the Tara/Bali scene composed by Kirtana Krishna and Vinay Kumar
Lights designed by Vinay Kumar, executed by Anand Satheendran
Creative Guidance: Anmol Vellani and Vinay Kumar
Prodcution Managers: Apoorva Arthur and Bhairavi
Costumes designed by Viji Roy
Duration: 75 min.

Shadow puppetry: Michael and Wendy Dacre at Kathalaya, 231118

November 24, 2018

Sometimes the shadow is just as interesting as the substance.

I was privileged to peep in on a shadow puppet workshop that

Michael and Wendy Dacre

conducted at Kathalaya, BTM Layout, Bangalore, on 23rd November 2018.

Nikhil from the Hindu interviews Michael and Wendy, while Geeta looks on.
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Shadow puppet theatre has long been a part of the traditional arts of many cultures,but when Wendy first got interested in it, she found that there was no tradition of it at all, in the United Kingdom. She built up her shadow puppets, and the shadow puppet theatre, from scratch, using any of a wide variety of materials to hand, and learning the ways puppets can be moved behind the screen, by experimentation. “Traditional shadow puppetry has set rules,” Wendy says, on a cloudy afternoon. “But I invented as I went along.” She did take the help of technology, she says; “If, for example, I wanted to make the silhouette of a buffalo, I would look at images on the net to be able to draw one.”

Michael and Wendy
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Wendy, therefore, describes herself as a “maker”. Whether it is the puppets themselves, or the proscenium on which they act out the story that Michael tells, they are all her own creations.

Michael takes up the story, from the viewpoint of telling the tale. “The puppets themselves don’t talk, in our shows,” he explains. It’s the audience’s minds and imagination, he says, that fills up the details: “The mind has to fill in the other things.” “I see the story in my inner mind,” he adds. Both he and Wendy sometimes improvise as they go along. The occasional tussles of each wanting to do something different, and the resulting compromises, make for interesting theatre!

What is the longest shadow puppet theatre they have staged? Michael talks of the many tales he’s picked up all over…the Icelandic and Irish mythology, the tales from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and the Old English folklore. Their story of Beowulf is about an hour long, Michael says, as is the production of “Into a New Time”. He mentions tales based on the Sargasso Sea. Though the content could be very adult, he explains, he finds that it’s the adults who are most often captivated by the simplest of tales. “It’s been 31 years of an amazing journey with the stories and Wendy’s puppets,” he says. He describes himself, smilingly, as a “wordsmith”, who spins and relates the tale that Wendy brings forth with her puppets.

The puppets can vary greatly in size. “I’ve made some giant puppets,” smiles Wendy. “For the Arthurian tale of

Gawain and the Green Knight

I made a Green Knight puppet with a giant head, with creepers and plants growing out of his face, ears and all…and the puppet had to be beheaded in the course of the story! “Velcro came in handy!” she laughs.

All the pupppets only monochrome shadows? “Oh, no, you just saw the green grass, the coloured flowers and the other things I created as the stage,” explains Wendy. “I use anything, such as glass paper, that is translucent and will let the light through. Sometimes the mixture of colours gets me interesting combination, sometimes the pigments merge into black.” She also uses coloured lights as well, to enhance the silhouettes.

How does Wendy take care of the puppets? She laughs. Her craft, she says, is very much “of the time”, and the puppets can disintegrate into their component parts or, as happened with one giant puppet, get composted! Fabric, willow, glue, ratafia…she uses materials that can decompose.

For the workshop, Wendy has brought along a puppet stage, with three panels, and specially devised lighting. She must have this, as daylight cannot be focused sharply on her little stage. She’s also created a small mobile stage that can be slung across the story-teller’s shoulders and secured at the waist, so that the story teller can move round while staging the shadow puppet show.

Jayashree demonstrates the mobile stage and shows some of the puppets:

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On their first visit to India, at the invitation of Geeta Ramanujam of Kathalaya,this couple from Devon seems very much at ease. Michael tries out a vada with chutney, and interacts with the ten women, from very diverse backgrounds, who have come to participate in the workshop. Anu, Shalini, Rakhi, Savita, Shirin, Archana, Anshul, Rohini, Pavitra and Anusha are learning a bit of this art and craft and creating their own shadow puppet theatre…an exciting prospect for them.

Participants at the workshop:

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Scenery created by the participants of the workshop:

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We wish Michael and Wendy success with their first foray into our city and country, with their spinning of tales and creation of a world of the imagination.

A moose and a billy goat, in the short demonstration before the workshop:

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Here is a video that Jayashree took, of the short demonstration:

Michael and Wendy will be staging two performances with Geeta Ramanujam on Sunday, 25 November, 2018. Here are the details and the links:

Shadow puppetry Show – Geeta Ramanujam, Michael and Wendy Dacre UK.

Kathalaya, in collaboration with Indian Music Experience (IME), presents a special shadow play by international storytellers, Raventales (UK) . Venue: IME JP nagar opp. BRIGADE MILLENIUM SCHOOL on NOV. 25th 11 to 12pm. Tickets: Rs.300

Link to the event,

here

There will be another performance at 5.30 to 7.pm at Courtyard Koota, Good Earth, Kengeri, on the same day.

Link for the tickets,

here

Or you can call 8277389840 for more details.

Chidiyon ka pinjra, Ranga Shankara, 151114: Theatre review

November 17, 2014

found that

this review

has said it all equally well!

The only thing I have to add is that I am sorry that there was no brochure, and no introduction of the cast and crew…two things that always add to my enjoyment of a play.

Bade Miyaan Deewane: Play Review, 080614

June 9, 2014

here

is my review of the Hindustani play that I went to watch at Ranga Shankara yesterday.

Another excellent review is

here

The story of the play, as given by Ranga Shankara:

The play is essentially about a rich and eccentric octogenarian, who is used to a luxurious and flamboyant lifestyle. He is swept off his feet by a beautiful young girl in his neighborhood, who also happens to be the love interest of his son.

Meer Sahab falls for his neighbour’s young daughter. His son, Tabish, is also in love with the same girl and wants to marry her. Sheikh Sahab, on the other hand, wants his daughter to marry a dynamic man. Shaukat, a charming young writer, is an acquaintance of both Meer Sahab and Sheikh Sahab. Shaukat is a genuine well-wisher of Meer Sahab, who wants him to stop splurging his wealth on his tawaif (Heera & Gulab) and return to his good old days. Meer Sahab wants Shaukat to convince Sheikh that he is a great prospect for his daughter and at the same time, Sheikh wants Shaukat to counter Mir Sahab’s advances and teach him a lesson.

An enjoyable evening of folklore and children’s theatre, 230314

March 23, 2014

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Click here

to see my review of the evening (which was more than just the play), by Bangalore Little Theatre.

I’m glad I could show KTB a bit of children’s theatre in India!

The strange things that happen to me…

July 2, 2013

I decided to see the first show of “Shrek”..the musical, based on the movie…at the Muny.

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Here’s a song from the musical, that I took from Youtube:

Having gone late (I missed the Muny trolley from De Baliviere as well) , I was sitting in the back row, as usual, but the children in front of me kept standing up. I didn’t want to tell them to sit down, they were enjoying themselves so much. So I got up and was standing behind the back row. An usher politely told me I had to sit down, and found another place for me. After sitting down, I realized the big Muny fan was blocking my view. So at the break, I went to the toilet (long pee queue) and then came back and sat in my original seat.

Then a man came up to me and said, “Did you see my child’s cup?” I said no. After another 20 minutes, he came back again and said, “If you give me back my cup, I won’t say anything about the purse.” He said some lady had lost her purse. I didn’t want to be badgered by him, So I got up and went to the ushers and told them what had happened.

I pointed to the man. When they called him over, I voluntarily opened my bag and showed the contents to them. Both the man and the ushers were profusely apologetic. I broke down and cried. This perplexed the House Manager, whose name is Kwofe Coleman. He expected me to be angry, but not to cry!. He took me down to the plaza,, and another usher, and he, comforted me. I tried to switch on the phone to call Anjana, and it wouldn’t switch on. This made me cry a little more! I didn’t ask Kwofe to call her. I gave him my Citizen Matters visiting card and told him I am from India. He gave me his number and asked me to call the next day. I went back and watched the last half an hour or so, but the evening was totally spoilt, and certainly I missed a lot of it (it was very good.) I walked back to Forest Park Station and A picked me up.

I called Kwofe up the next day, and he said he’d give me tickets on the house, any day that I liked. So, on Thursday the 27th, my friend Ruth Hartsell and I went to the show. I’d packed an Indian dinner for her, and an American dinner (macaroni and cheese, that I’d made for KTB’s dinner) for myself. We enjoyed the show very much indeed. I went up to Kwofe again, and said I’d email him and thank him, and the Muny, for their Muny-ficience! I decided to write this blogpost, describing the whole incident.

But…don’t think that’s the end of the strange happenings. On Monday evening, I was walking along Union Blvd, photographing some of the old buildings, and turned left into Delmar, on my way home. Suddenly, a flatbed van stopped near me, and someone said, “Madam!”

I am not used to running if addressed by strangers, so I stopped…and guess who it was…the man who had accused me! He shook me by the hand, and said he’d been feeling very bad about what had happened. Seeing his really troubled face, I felt that what had passed was no longer a problem, and told him to forget it. We exchanged notes about ourselves for a while. His name is Joseph (alas, I’ve forgotten his last name, and forgot to take a photo of him, I was so rattled by the coincidence!). He’s a retired firefighter…he was invalided out when he was rescuing a 400-lb man from a fire and got injured. He now runs an auto mechanice shop business out of home, and has four children. I told him a bit more about myself, and asked him to email me the letter he said he’d written to me. (He hasn’t yet sent it, though.)

Ironically, he asked me to be careful in walking down Delmar Blvd and asked me if he could give me a lift home. I am not comfortable taking lifts from unknown people (I held no rancour about what had happened, but he was still a stranger) so I said I needed the excercise. We parted on very amicable terms.

Life is so strange! What were the odds of my meeting that man again? It was sheer chance that I decided to walk down Union and turned at Delmar…and that he happened to be passing at the same time, and also, recognized me. All’s well that ends well…looking forward to our family trip to Washington, D C, tomorrow…I hope the fireworks are great on the 4th of July!

Hungarian Shadow Play

June 25, 2013

I was moved watching this, and I hope you will be, too…

Sunset at the Muny, STL, 170613

June 21, 2013

I went to the Muny to watch the opening night of the musical season, with “Spamalot”. It had been raining heavily all day…but as if in salute to the never-say-die spirit of the cast, the rain petered out, and we had the most amazing sunset colours, before the show began! I thought of ‘s fondness for the “sky ocean”…I was, indeed, drowning in blue and pink!

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Muny dusk Forest Pk 170613

Here’s the Old Glory, on the stage:

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The national anthem sounded, and I too got up and put my hand over my heart…does it matter which country it is?

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Walking home, I took this photo of the Bandstand in front of the Muny:

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And one of the Visitors’ Center:

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The Bard and the birds

May 22, 2013

I went to see Twelfth Night at Forest Park.
But it had not yet become dark.
I went to hear some immortal words;
But everywhere I saw the birds.

In the trees of Shakespeare’s Glen,
I saw a little Carolina Wren.
There was a pretty Northern Flicker,
Taking pity upon this clicker.

I looked up and saw two Mourning Doves
Sitting…and watching,…on a wire above.
A family of pretty Kildeer
Came quite near, without too much fear.

Robins and Starlings came to witness the sight
Of a rehearsal of Twelfth Night.
But the biggest fans of the famous Bard
Seemed to be the waddling Mallards!

Several of these ran up eagerly
And, along with the audience, settled to see
A famous play…I’m sure its creator
Never imagined birds watching his theatre!

I’ve put up some of the photos of the birds at the rehearsal of the play…

click here for my FB album

They are the commonest birds imaginable…but they utterly delighted me! Where else can I get Art and Nature together like this, except Forest Park?

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Robin

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Flicker

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Mallards side

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Mallards diagonal

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Mallards near seats

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Mallards near stage

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Mallards near audience

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Tree sunshine

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Cherries

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Sunset Trees

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Moon leaves

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Sunset

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Grass

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Sunset Leaves

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