Necessary Targets by Suchitra CFD  

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A very strong theme of war refugees encountering two counsellors from the ‘normal’ world with immense possibilities in terms of inter-personal dynamics, psychological insights possibly being interwoven into the script and the prospect of seeing 7 women on stage at once, all backed by a name like Suchitra CFD and Prakash Belawadi, and you know that you have to go and watch the play. 

And it doesn’t disappoint.

The set consisted of two-levels, the lower level depicting a refugee camp with its tent, barbed wire and a cloth backdrop adding to the feel of the stage being a part of a camp stretching over a large area and seemingly sheltering many refugees. The tent was just a pyramidal bamboo structure with no canvas over it so that the audience could see the scenes plotted inside the tent very clearly. The upper level of the set was used to depict a psychiatric clinic where the play begins and ends. The lights by Arun Murthy lit the refugee camp beautifully to indicate day, nightfall and to generally give a sense of melancholia when required by the context. The sounds accentuated the emotions in various scenes even further.

I’ll turn to the play’s poster to explain what the play is about:

Five women in a refugee camp are recovering from war and all that that means to civilians and particularly women. A mixture of ages and backgrounds, they are here waiting, and trying to survive. Two foreign women, one a psychiatrist with twenty-five years of affluent private practice behind her, the other a young counsellor determined to write a book on 'women in war', are flown in to help them... To help. Does 'talking' help? Does making a story public heal a private pain? The two professionals, with conflicting attitudes, are pushed to their own limits in this confrontation. 

NECESSARY TARGETS is not about war, but the aftermath of war, when 'we' who have suffered encounter 'them', who want to help. Or is it when 'we' who want to help encounter 'them', who have suffered?

Starting from the opening scene where the very composed clinical therapist JS interviews the young trauma counsellor Melissa, the contrast between their personalities and approaches was brought out well by the two actors. The actors playing refugees were also good, each bringing out their character and its trauma well. Be it madness brought on by mental trauma, the pain of being forced to trade normal prosperous lives for those of refugees, loss of loved ones – even if they are domestic animals that mean everything to an old lonely woman, loss of love – war trauma bringing a man to physically abuse his wife, being stuck in an ethnic no man’s land with mixed descent leaving one on neither side of the border, or the fact that in the face of all human wrongs it is after all humanity that has stood by people, the emotions were exhibited well by the actors. The script allowed each character to reach its personal peak of emotional intensity at separate points and gave enough scope for individual performances to show distinctly. And yet it remained a story of 7 women who were trying to help each other. Who was helping whom more is something that must be found out by watching the play.

The production had just one flaw for me though. The accents. Each actor, it seemed, had been allowed to keep her natural accent and that resulted in 7 distinct accents being doled out to the audience. The context of the play was universal and would apply to any war-torn community or a community that has suffered tragedy together. Yet, the primary differences that the characters would have would possibly be those of education or background (rural/urban). Other than the two psychiatrists, the 5 refugees were presumably from the same nation or at the most from two sides of the same border. There would always be a common thread running through the characters in a situation like that even if they had distinct backgrounds and personalities. I didn’t find that thread. The characters could have very well been from 7 different nations in this case, the accents ranging from heavily South-Indian to American, ‘Somewhere-in-Europe’-an and all that lies in between. It jarred the experience for me. In fact, most of the time I couldn’t understand Jelena’s lines, which were recited in an accent very different from the others (almost too polished for a country-girl) and in an almost poem-like fashion, and had to only approximate the context catching on words here and there. 

Thankfully the emotions dominated the script for most part and their intensity made it easier to lose oneself in the story for most part. I cried during more than one scene and the entire credit goes to the cast and the director for giving me an intense experience of Necessary Targets. The script could have been stronger with all the stories getting equal weightage in terms of treatment but this production did wonders with what the script limited it to. 

What itches me right now is that the curtain call had no introductions of the actors and no leaflets were handed out about the play earlier too. What a pity, no names to pin to such strong performances. For the extremely challenging form of art that theatre is in its immediacy and vicinity to the audience, for the energy/power that actors can (and in this production did) communicate to the audience, I think all actors deserve their due. While I agree that theatre is very different from films in India, which probably are actor-driven in appeal than director-driven, I think as tools that the director uses to get a play across to the audience the actors definitely need to be given their credit. For now I’ll have to remember these performances by the character-names and I am not quite liking that.

Anyway, Suchitra CFD’s Necessary Targets is a must watch for wonderful acting and a treatment of the subject that leaves one shaken a little. The strongest thought brought out in the play dwells on the beauty of human relationships in all their complexity, of the human need to connect and be part of a web. It is almost exhilarating to watch this production and see that thought being depicted so beautifully on stage. Strongly recommended.

Cast & Crew:

On Stage: 
Sharanya Ramprakash, Maggy Jacqmin , Maya Girish, Sheila Govindraj, Spatica Ramanujam , Padmavathi Rao and Siri Ravikumar.

Lights: Arun Murthy
Assistant Direction: Helen Haywood
Production Manager: Nikhil Bharadwaj
Design & Direction: Prakash Belawadi

39 Steps by Evam  

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There was only one motivating factor for me to watch 39 Steps by Evam. It was the fact that 4 actors were playing 140 characters between themselves. It’s the kind of qualification that gets people/productions into various record books. So I just had to watch it.

Of course there were additional factors like it being an Evam play (entertainment guaranteed), it being a Hitchcock film script, it being an Evam play with a Hitchcock film script (that is like the introductory statement for Hamlet the Clown Prince – ‘Clown Company presents…Tragedy!’...I had no clue how this combination would work) and Art having been a good experience. People usually need one good reason to do things and here I had five!

So we landed at Rangashankara and took up our seats in the auditorium waiting with anticipation for the play to begin. The set seemed a tad more elaborate than some of the Evam plays I have seen recently. The operative being tad. For a large part, the props were used and reused with amazing dexterity and even to elicit situational humour. It must be seen to be enjoyed to the fullest.

Directed by Bhargav Ramakrishnan, the play is almost a scene-to-scene enactment of the film with Evam putting a hilarious spin on it. They did make the scenes very funny at most points but did not let go of the story per se and the storyline remained the same as the film to the end. It is worth a watch for the way the actors depict train chases, bridge clamours or noisy railway stations (3 actors playing 5 characters at the same time) innovatively without so much as getting props for trains or bridges or houses in place. The most noteworthy performance was by TM Karthik who played, at various points, a spy, a Scotsman, an old lady, a professor’s wife, Mr. Memory and more absolutely brilliantly. That is not to say the others weren’t equally good. All the four actors – TM Karthik, Sunil Vishnu, Navin Balachandran (Richard Hannay) and Renu Abraham – supported each other extremely well to bring out a complete film cast on stage and had us believe that it was indeed 140 characters on stage and not 4 actors. The accents were managed well too, be it German, British or Scottish. 

The humour did get a little slapstick at some points and seemed overdone. For instance, Mr. Memory’s antics before he answered any of the questions asked to him or Annabella Smith’s mannerisms (spoken as well as body language-wise) could have been toned down a whole lot and not have been in the audience’s face so much. But broadly, they were great performances for what the actors were attempting.

The sounds were handled extremely well and timed to the ‘T’ but the lights, though designed very well, were handled a little patchily and cues were missed a few times in the staging I attended. But given that there were 5 shows in 3 days, that is not completely unpardonable even though it affects the experience to some degree.

Evam’s 39 steps is one of the only 4 stage productions of 39 steps showing around the world and I am sure it is a unique one at that with the Evam spin on it. For this reason and to witness some awe-inspiring performances while being thoroughly rib-tickled by a Hitchcock film script, 39 steps by Evam must not be missed.

Art by Evam  

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It had been a while I had seen an Evam play. And longer that I had seen Karthik Kumar or Sunil Vishnu on stage. The ongoing Evam Double Bill provided an opportunity to change both these facts apart from being able to watch one of their most commended productions – Yasmina Reza’s Art.

I was almost preparing myself to miss it yet again since Art is running only on weekdays but divine intervention freed up my evening today and I rushed to book tickets. A good play ought not to be missed after all.

What I have begun to notice more and more in Evam’s Productions is how Spartan they keep their sets (unless the production absolutely demands an elaborate setup vis-à-vis An Idiot For Dinner). And how innovatively they use the little they get onto stage. Art had a set comprising of a few blocks of wood that the actors themselves kept moving about quite efficiently between scenes. The blocks could be used variously to sit on, as a table, or just about anyway the actors pleased. That ensured that the focus necessarily stayed on the performers throughout, there being nothing more to get distracted by.

Evam also uses lights quite well and Art, too, had its share of monologues in the spotlights, which served to separate the characters from the scene and let them voice what was truly going on in their heads, that would then give way to a well-lit scene. Set changes themselves were carried out in lights of various colours, a new trend in theatre I am told. The lights were handled well but the sounds, the musical pieces used for set changes, could have been a little more consistent; the same sound played for the first few times before a totally new track – different in feel and mood – took over. Of course I’m nitpicking, but just saying…I noticed.

Art, originally a French play, revolves around a painting, a work of art, and a difference in opinion about the value of this work exposes the widening rift between friends Marc and Serge (the owner of the painting). A third friend Yvan takes on different roles in this situation – a mediator, a moderator, a victim and then a diffuser. It is worth noting that the painting is a work of modern art and comprises of white diagonal lines running across a white background and has cost Serge 200,000 francs. The situation, serious in itself, leads to hilarious remarks being made and Yvan generally providing comic relief by being the adorable joker in the trio. Eventually, they reach an explosive point before the tension is diffused and the work of rebuilding their relationships begins. To know how, you’ve got to watch the play.

The play explores the foundations that friendship must presumably rest on, the need for sensitivity between the closest of friends and in the end, it all being about being able to understand the other person’s perspective and his right to hold that perspective. While the device used to expose the weak links in the friendship that Marc, Serge and Yvan share may seem trivial (a white square), the metaphor is unendingly beautiful; it is often these trivial things, which shouldn’t matter between people who care about each other, that cause the greatest damage since they are signs of a deeper rot. The play turns around beautifully in the end and even manages to touch a soft spot somewhere within each of us who have ever quibbled with close friends over matters, large or small.

Performances by Karthik Kumar as Marc and Sunil Vishnu as the adorable Yvan were almost flawless save for Sunil Vishnu’s pace of speech towards the end, when Yvan is flustered for many reasons and is generally venting his frustration out. The mood and the emotion were conveyed very well but I, personally, couldn’t catch all of what was being said by him. Otherwise the two of them seemed absolutely at home on stage and were playing the parts to the T, supported well by Jimmy as Serge.

That was the long and short of my ‘Art by Evam’ experience. The last show of this run is tomorrow, Thursday at 7:30 pm at Rangashankara and the next change is 39 Steps. I would recommend Art highly for both the script and the performances. Best enjoyed with close friends, given the context…there’s both enjoyment and insight in store.

Five Point Someone by Evam  

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It evaded me ever since it premiered in January at Rangashankara. And I had to make do with the very disappointing film equivalent until yesterday when everything was set right again. I watched Five Point Someone by Evam at Rangashankara after it completed its national tour and came back to base, possibly with the last two shows. That would be a pity for sure.
I had heard a lot about FPS (as it is lovingly called) and had even booked tickets for the Chowdiah Memorial show, which I couldn’t make it to. So all that I had heard accompanied me to the auditorium and sat beside me all through. And I only have more to add to it.

Let’s start at the beginning.

The whole of Rangashankara had been customized for FPS. The signboard of ‘Sasi’s Chai Coffee Paratha’ hung over the usual Anju’s café counter. Room number signboards hung over the seating area. And the signboard over the ticket blocking desk said ‘IIT-Delhi’. I am not sure how many groups can command this kind of flexibility (going by the spirit of Rangashankara it shouldn’t be too difficult though) but this was a very innovative way of letting the FPS experience begin as soon as you set foot at the venue. Very well done!

The sound of Pink Floyd welcomed the audience to the auditorium. That was the sound of FPS as well – Pink Floyd. So there was absolute continuity when the play began since the people had soaked into the sound already. And Floyd has been used very well throughout the play, just the right tracks and the right riffs that accentuated the scenes in question. Score on sound as well!

The set looked very basic. We were looking at three pieces of an elevated platform that spanned almost the entire stage in length. In the wings we could see cubical wooden frames but I wasn’t sure how they would be used. Turns out the cubes had steel mesh on one side and they were used for sitting, as tables, beds, what have you. Very innovative because that would have made them very light and hence easy to move. Consequently, set changes were very fast in this case. And that too in absolute darkness with amazing precision, thanks to the crew.

The play began with a dramatic scene with the Alok, Ryan and Hari in the ambulance and Alok sprawled on the stretcher covered with a sheet stained in blood. Hari begins the play by describing how uncomfortable he feels being in that ambulance and how he wishes for Alok to be fine even after having 13 fractures in his body. He talks of writing a book about their entire time together if Alok surivives this. The lights go out and a spot appears in the corner. The narrator Vaisakh Shankar takes over.

And that’s the format for the rest of the play. The older Hari (Vaisakh) narrates broad pieces, comments on situations past, ties the scenes together from the corner and the significant scenes are acted out on stage by the younger Hari (Naveen Richards), Alok (Yudi) and Ryan (Avinash). Starting from the ragging scene on their first day in the hostel all the way upto the job interviews and the end. The narrator also walks onto the stage in some scenes, for instance he’s talking about discovering the Insti Roof. The light work to manage this sort of a format was absolutely brilliant and flawless. Spots appear and disappear with precision, lights fade in and fade out without hiccups and everything looks orchestrated. Superb light design and execution.

The costuming was done very well too. The graded garments of the rich kid Ryan, to the ordinary Hari and the monotonous brown shirt-trousers and chappals of Alok almost spoke for their family backgrounds in the play and made it easier to establish characters. One actor (Deva) played two different professors – the older Prof. Dubey and the younger and more student-friendly Prof. Veera – and it was his costumes that established that more than anything else, ably supported by body language.

No complaints on the performance front either. All the characters were clearly audible even when there was background music to their monologues. Avinash was brilliant as the carefree and rebellious Ryan, his body language oozed his character. Naveen Richards did well as the perennially stuck-in-the-middle Hari and brought out the awkwardness of puppy love very well. Mamta Bisht supported him well in this, swaying comfortably between cute and battered by the secret of his brother’s death. Alok was good as the fat boy with the weight of his world on his shoulders. Vaisakh Shankar excelled as the older Hari, with a very expressive face that came alive with the memories he was recalling, a clear voice that rose and fell in rhythm and a certain command over the stage that showed that this was his story. He used the spaces comfortably, watched on his younger self with amusement and brought poignancy in very well just to disperse it with a humourous punch line the next second.

P.S. 1 (added 6 hours later): I don’t know how I missed writing about the scenes where the actors are frozen center stage and the narrator pitches in for a few seconds. It was really nice to see the frozen actors hold their emotion in complete intensity until the narration was over. One could see it in their faces and it was quite a delight to watch such superb acting.

Speaking of humourous punch lines, the script has been adapted perfectly for stage. Evam mentioned in the curtain call of how Chetan Bhagat had requested them to keep the soul of the story alive in the adaptation and that is exactly what they have done. The play has its serious moments but it never feels heavy. Humour has been brought in at the right moments and in the right form to disperse any heaviness the scene commands. And it is not slapstick humour. And no point is one wincing about the remarks being made in the play. The dialogues are perfectly natural teenager language and nothing looks forced. This play rides solely on the connection that it makes with the audience in terms of the global appeal that college memories seem to have. And they’ve used this factor well.

Certain points from FPS are worth a special mention in terms of the innovative theatrical devices they’ve used. Like I said, the light work was brilliant and they’ve used light for more than just lighting up the stage in FPS. A classroom, a challenging setting to depict due to visibility issues, is depicted with both the teacher and the students facing the audience, placed at two levels and the blackboard is depicted by a rectangle of bright light. And it looks perfectly natural. In another scene where Hari brings Neha to the Insti Roof, a crescent of the moon is depicted through light and that is what heightens the feel of that scene. In other devices, the scene after when Hari and Neha have made love shows the bed as the background and Hari and Neha standing against it and talking. One could have been looking at the top-view of the bed and not have known the difference. Well done again.

All these aspects make sure that one doesn’t mind FPS being 150 minutes long. The play has enough rises and falls to keep one glued to the seat. It is perfectly executed and is not just a play, it is a wholesome experience of theatre. Heartiest congratulations to Evam for this excellent production.

Don’t miss the FPS experience if you get a go at it. It is worth all your time. Here’s to the entire cast and crew of FPS…cheers guys!

Elling by Dramanon  

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It was a good premise that led me to go and watch this play.

Two men – Elling and Kjell Bjarne – suffering from mental illness are released from the institution for re-integration into the society and must convince the social worker that they are fit enough to lead a normal social life. The play was based on a novel written by the Norwegian author Ingvar Ambjornsen. It was this premise that drew me. I entered the auditorium expecting to come back a Martini – either shaken or stirred. But that’s the thing with expectations, they are seldom fulfilled.

The play began in Kjell Bjarne’s room in the institution and with his introduction to his new roommate Elling. It jumped over two years to show them being released and being discouraged by one of the institution’s staff members – Gunn. It panned through their initial adjustment problems once they were allotted an apartment. And then through their lives where they find friends and lovers – Alphons and Reidun. All the while the social worker Frank Asli watched them like a hawk, waiting for them to fail. And eventually they were deemed normal just because they did seemingly stupid things like dirtying the apartment.  I have to agree that that bird’s eye view of the play was nice. The aspects of subtle social commentary and the psychological exploration of unstable minds.

And frankly the performances were mostly good too. Anshu Bora was quite convincing as Kjell Bjarne – naïve, almost a simpleton with a heart of gold, obsessed with food and women. Deepanjan Dey was good too as Elling, the ever-suspicious mama’s boy; I had seen him earlier in [Sic] and he had done well even in that play. Akhil Iyer was fine as the annoying Frank Asli who almost wants the two men to fail in their re-integration and go back so he can rent the apartment out at a higher rate. One starts rooting for the protagonists and Frank becomes the natural villain although all he is trying to do is help them by forcing them to go out and pick up phone calls. Nakul Bhalla played Elling’s friend Alphons and though he looked ok as an old man way past his prime, his voice definitely could have been much clearer; I struggled to grasp his dialogues even at a venue like Rangashankara. Nidhi Pant as the pregnant neighbour Reidun Nordsletten was good too and played out the deliberate movements of a woman who is carrying quite well.

There were even points in the script that were brilliant in terms of their insights – everytime Elling says mother used to attend all phone calls or mother used to do this-do that, one realizes how possible it is for love to smother and incapacitate people, render them useless for seemingly effortless tasks like answering the phone and buying groceries; the point when Frank Asli says the two men are normal because this is what normal people do – get drunk to celebrate, dirty the apartment and vomit when they have a child, it makes you stop dead in your tracks and realize how silly normalcy is, the way we define it. That single statement in the end is the absolute crux of this play. Except it shouldn’t have taken more than two hours to arrive at it.

The play was way too long. In my opinion, it a test of the audience’s patience once you start crossing the 90 minute mark and you have to give them a rock solid reason to sit any longer. To take it beyond 120 minutes is just pushing it. And if that is the case, the pace needs to be fast and the script tight, there need to be sufficient number of crests and troughs for the experience to be exhilarating. Elling was more or less monotonous and dragged on at many points. There was no thrill.

There could have been more attention given to detailing. I agree that theatre is markedly different from cinema in its use of metaphor and symbolism. But when you choose to use the exact props you might as well go all the way. Elling is someone who writes in his notebook obsessively. And hence it was very weird for me to watch him from my seat flipping empty pages and reading poetry from it. Elling keeps a picture of his mother on the table in his apartment. And the frame had a picture of a girl in it. If an aesthetic looking frame has been procured, the default picture of a little girl could have been easily removed and replaced. If one goes to 99% of the distance, what stops anyone from going that 1% extra?

Boundaries were being violated throughout. For instance, there were no physical walls shown in the apartment allotted. Fair enough. But they could have drawn temporary lines on the floor and imagined walls around. Throughout the play I couldn’t tell if the apartment had walls at all. Sometimes they would walk around them. Sometimes they would look right though and move beds through them. From right in front of the stage or at a venue with levelled seating it doesn’t make a difference. In a place like Rangashankara, people can see the floor. Even if they didn’t, it is a violation of metaphor to violate boundaries like this. At another point, Alphons enters the apartment through the doorframe placed in the corner. He returns Elling’s notebook and exits though the wings. It leaves the viewer confused about the boundaries one is working with and can get very disconcerting.

The set changes took too long and that delay made the scene change very discontinuous. Also, both the two-year and the four-month fast forwards were not obvious at all. It is very difficult for the audience to figure all this out and follow the current scene at the same time. It creates gaps of perception in the performance. Also, the placement of the beds in the opening scene was plain disadvantageous of one-third of the crowd sitting on the left side of the auditorium. Major major audience angle problem.

And no, I am not nit picking. These are all technicalities that could have been easily taken care of. If the actors are putting in so much effort to play their parts well, it is not justified that technicalities lag behind and leave gaps. Just because the audience is willing to give leeway doesn’t mean we take it. The ultimate goal should always be flawlessness without taking the audience for granted. Because unfortunately some people notice these things and though they get the overall message, somewhere their experience is incomplete. It is like finding a strand of hair in your food; you could always remove it and continue eating but you will never leave the table feeling good.

Frankly, lately I’ve had the feeling that the yardsticks have become a tad too short especially for theatre. The critique applied to cinema is hardly ever applied to theatre. And we end up delaying perfection everytime we overlook and let pass. But that again could just be me.

Broken Images with Shabana Azmi  

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It had all the right ingredients: a script by the acclaimed Girish Karnad, direction by Alyque Padamsee, Shabana Azmi for the actor and a full house that had the glitterati of Bangalore descend to witness the magic that would be created when the trio worked together on something. So how did it taste?

The special staging of Broken Images on Friday the 4th of June was an event organized by the India Foundation for Arts (IFA) to fund grants from the foundation and all the money from the ticket sales was to go to the IFA and to be used for grants. And since it was an event for IFA, they screened a short movie before the play, a movie that gave the audience an idea of all that IFA does. 

And then Shabana Azmi walked in. To a full house of people. She walked into a beautiful set designed by Arghya Lahiri and modelled on a television studio, where the character Manjula Sharma comes for a television interview, and stayed there for the next one hour delivering pretty much a monologue of a play.

Although it was a monologue, the format of the play made it very interesting. The play progressed as a conversation between Manjula Sharma and her image on a studio television, let us say her conscience. And that took the monotony away from the monologue (although Girish Karnad’s Flowers, a very long monologue, is far from monotonous and is one of the best plays I have seen to date).

The premise of the play was the unmasking of a celebrity, novelist Manjula Sharma, and bringing out buried feelings from within and the ugly truths of her life. Dubbed to be a psychological thriller, the play ended in a very dramatic fashion and the last scene in itself had an effect that heightened the sense of the drama. Except it came too suddenly.

For some reason, a powerful script like Broken Images did not build up very well for me in this version. Throughout the play there was a flippant/casual tone to the character’s voice, one that we all use in conversation, and the last scene did not somehow seem to be the logical next to that tone. For a character that was torn apart by guilt towards the later half of the play and was making shocking revelations about her life out loud, the tone would always return to the conversational tone that was set at the outset of the play.

Certain choreographed moments felt quite fake, as did the voice the whole of the time. For instance the real and the screen Manjula Sharma giving each other a high five. In terms of the voice, in a particular scene where the screen image is nagging Manjula to make her confess to something clandestine, neither the screen image felt to be too nagging nor did the following confession too beseeching. The character did not seem visibly perturbed after this confession in terms of her voice thought her body language communicated something else.

Overall, in this performance I would say I wasn’t hearing what I was seeing and consequently I couldn’t feel the play at all. That in a nutshell would be my Broken Images experience.

The sound, used very sparingly, was good but the lights could have been better. There is a moment when Manjula is lost in recounting an incident from her life, a revelation and at that point the house lights were dimmed and a spot directed onto her. At the end of that piece, the screen image says something that jolts Manjula out of her train of thought. The house lights fade in as she starts walking towards the screen. At this point, the effect would have been accentuated if the house lights had been switched on instantly when Manjula was jolted. The effect was totally lost since the lights came on quite leisurely.

The last scene deserves special mention though. Discontinuous as it may have been from the rest of the play, it achieved the dramatic effect it was meant to achieve with the haunting music adding more effect. The way the idea of ‘broken’ was reinforced with some beautiful visual imagery was really nice. I just wish the performance had steadily built up to that dramatic end.

At this point I am wondering what is it that went wrong with my experience of this play. After watching awe-inspiring screen performances and hearing about Tumhari Amrita almost forever, I was expecting a whole lot from the performance in Broken Images. But for some reason it just did not work for me. So even with all the great ingredients put together, Broken Images remained a dish that was garnished and presented very well but was quite bland to taste.

The Adventures Of Tintin by Akvarious Productions  

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It wasn’t just the fact that Akvarious’s Jake’s Women has been a brilliant watch. It was also the fact that we were curious to see how Herge’s iconic comic strip had been adapted to stage. And we were not even a tad disappointed when Akvarious staged The Adventures of Tintin at Rangashankara on a lovely Sunday morning, 30th of May.

Tintin fans will know that not only does a Tintin story involve a lot of change of locations but also a bit of action sometimes. Given this fact, adapting the comic to stage becomes a more difficult task. In addition, since the intended audience also includes children, blunt metaphors are no longer going to help since children need to see things as it is on stage to be able to correlate and appreciate a story.

And Akvarious’s production scored on all these points. The core of the set were about 6 low lying tables that became what was required of them to become – chairs, tables, beds, ships, stages…the way the actors used them left no scope of doubt about their use and introduced children gradually to metaphors and the device of theatre without losing the plot. On the other hand, the costumes were tailored perfectly, down to the anchor and yellow band on Captain Haddock’s sailor cap and Tintin’s pointy yellow-orange hair. Professor Calculus had an olive green attire and there was Snowy too! In a furry white costume and an absolute joy to watch. The way he barked and squealed, no one would have believed it was a human voice in disguise. Hat’s off!

The plot was tight and largely based on Prisoners of the Sun but with elements borrowed from other books too. The actors were brilliant especially Hidaayat Sami as Captain Haddock – perfection, and Prerna Chawla as Snowy. No but really, each actor was good and it was a treat to watch them on stage.

A peculiar aspect of the play was the more than usual placement of cast members in the audience, they seemed to extend the stage right into the aisles and used the space freely. This increased the level of involvement with the play since the fourth wall seemed practically not to exist! We were in the play and the play was among us.

Though the play was staged with children in mind, it was thoroughly enjoyable for adults as well and especially for those who have enjoyed reading Tintin. It’s a legend brought to stage and brought to life in Akvarious Production’s The Adventures Of Tintin. This one is best enjoyed with the child within you brought out as your companion. Truly brilliant!