Still and Still Moving: Theatre Review

It’s not often that I attend a play without prior planning, but this happened to me when my friend Prathap invited me, after rather a long day outdoors, to “Still and Still Moving” at Ranga Shankara on 31st October 2015, staged by Tadpole Repertory Theatre.

It was worth the effort of changing tracks, from nature to theatre.

You can find Tadpole Rep’s blog

here,

 

and they are on FaceBook,

 

here.

A Delhi-based group, their professionalism in all departments of stagecraft was outstanding. I will be listing the cast and crew at the end, so I may not mention individual names.

The play, set in (where else?) Delhi, is about distances..both geographical and emotional. It was developed with Rage (Mumbai) & the Royal Court Theatre (UK) at Writers Bloc 3, a festival of new writing for the theatre.

Partho (Oroon Das) is an archetypal “Brit Bong” (a Bengali very British in his approach to life, language, and mannerisms…I found a preponderance of Bengali names in the list of cast and crew!) is in a loving relationship with Adil (Anirudh Nair) , a young college student. Fraught with tension, yet running deep, the relationship is tumultuous. The two characters act out the denouement in a pas de deux of frustration, anger, bouts of jealousy, times of happiness…and obstacles in their path. Partho has to be designated as Adil’s “local guardian” for the “normal” world. Partho would like to come out to his son (he was married much earlier, but is so no longer) and is still working out how and when he can do this. The play ends on a note open to interpretation by the audience.

A fugue running through this relationship is the Delhi Metro, both literally and figuratively part of their lives. Partho and Adil live at two ends of a Delhi Metro line. A group of men who travel in the Metro provide a very realistic jumble of incidents; humour, the difficulties of being crowded together, inappropriate touching. Neel Chaudhuri is a playwright to watch; his handling of topics which are normally never even referred to (inappropriate touching of men by other men, for example…where would a victim, especially a gay man, complain?) is reminscent of two other talented young playwrights, some years ago…Mahesh Dattani, and Pawan Kumar. Bold statements made with insight and leavened with humour; dialogue that flesh out the characters to credible dimensions; an unflinching adherence to the realities of a situation; all these mark the work of an author who’s done his job well.

The direction of the play was immaculate, in that it was hardly apparent during the performance; the director was not part of the cast. Actors were well-versed in their roles, and from the word go, the dramatic tension built up while the audience watched the tension between Adil and Partho crackle.

The dialogue was well-delivered by every member of the cast who had lines to speak; and sometimes, humour was conveyed without a word, especially in the multi-media scenes where a crowd of men travels in the Metro. Mobile facial expressions added to the punch of the dialogue. There was a smattering of Hindi; otherwise English was the language used. The comic timing was impeccable, and the audience often burst into laughter, even applauding the cast spontaneously at some points, and giving them a standing ovation after the performance.

The stage setting was innovatively done, where the rear of the stage became the Metro rail coach, helped by multi-media projections of the outside of the coach– which changes, while the travelers in the interior remain the same. A few simple props,such as a few pieces of furniture, helped in quick changes of scene while yet demarcating changes of locale clearly.

Costume design was very subtle too; everyday clothes yet designated different lifestyles.

The lighting and the sound (both effects and music) were excellent. Areas of the stage were highlighted or darkened to take the action forward. The music selected and played (including a Swahili song) was very effective.

Stage management, like direction, is often more visible when it is not done well, than when it’s competently done. Entrances and exits; removal of stage properties…all these were very well managed, and rehearsed. The simple set design enhanced this, too.

I read on the troupe’s FaceBook page that some of their projection videos had been corrupted before the shows; but everything went smoothly on the day I watched the play (or at least, lacunae did not show!)

It’s also a great feat, in a very conservative and hypocritical culture, where we have actually taken a regressive step and made homosexuality illegal (I’m sorry but this still makes my blood boil!) to stage scenes of explicit gay sex, and yet have the audience never feel uncomfortable about it. “Still and Still Moving” achieved this in full measure. One could feel that what was important in any relationship were the minds and hearts, though the bodies played their roles, too.

I’ve not watched too many plays on homosexuality at Ranga Shankara; the last one was a short one-woman play, “1, Madhav Baugh”, enacted by Revathi as part of Ranga Shankara’s “Other Voices” initiative, where a mother comes to terms with her son being gay. But that was still a play that touched more on the mother’s emotions rather than that of the son. But I can definitely say that I have not seen,before, a more realistic exposition of the practical troubles that a gay relationship can involve, and how those troubles pressure and fracture the relationship.

A beautifully-designed brochure gave all the details of the play, cast and crew. It was also good to have the playwright/director, cast and crew introduced at the end!

So…I salute Tadpole Repertory on a very good production indeed, and look forward to their return (with a different play? this was not made clear) in the first week of December. Theatregoers of Bangalore, book your tickets!

“Still and Still Moving”, by Tadpole Repertory Theatre, Delhi

85 minutes, Tickets, Rs.200

Playwright and Director: Neel Chaudhri

Cast: Oroon Das, Anirudh Nair, Indranil Choudhury, Abhishek Lal, Ankit Pandey, Bikram Ghosh, Mohit Mukherjee, Natraj Hasrat, Neel Sengupta, Pranjal Vaid, Shivam Pradhan, Rahul Tiwari

Asst Director: Dhwani Vij

Stage Manager: Anushrut

Lighting Designer: Anuj Chopra

Sound Designer: Samar Grewal

Set Designer: Oroon Das, Vaibhavi Kowshik

Video/Photography: Yashas Chandra

Ranga Shankara, 30 Oct and 31 Oct 2015.

Deepa Mohan
About Deepa Mohan 710 Articles
Deepa Mohan is a freelance writer and avid naturalist.

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