Saturday, Dec 15, 2018 | Last Update : 10:42 AM IST

Drama, on repeat

Published : Mar 5, 2018, 4:37 am IST
Updated : Mar 5, 2018, 4:38 am IST

Not slipping into the realm of realism this experimental performance portrays the emotions in physical form, sans the dialogues and a story.

Performers in action at rehearsal
 Performers in action at rehearsal

The basics of a theatre play are more or less the same: a protagonist, an antagonist, supporting characters, dialogues, intermingled scenes, beautiful sets and a climax, which gives away a narrative. And then there are abstract stage performances, where emotions are conveyed while a character repeats an action over and over again.

Much like Polish director Zbigniew Rybczynski’s eight-minute short video Tango, where a plethora of activities are taking place among a pool of people, who never collide, remaining unaffected by their surroundings. The Company Theatre, a city-based group, is presenting a show along the same lines. This Is All There Is When There Is All This is a movement-driven performance, with an ensemble of 25 bodies set in a loop, moving in an orchestrated chaos.

Unlike conventional theatre, here, the actions and movements are supposed to be “banal,” according to the makers, without any dialogue, story or climax. The characters are based in time and space — there is improvisation, but only of the psychological state of mind of the artistes. The loop the others are in, however, remains unaffected.

For instance, an actor will remain in the loop of walking up and down the stage with a book in his hand. The possibility is that he could get angry or frustrated in that constant state, or could find pleasure in his actions of walking up and down — it’s all subjective. What’s interesting about these loops the 25 people are in is that not one person’s story affects the other. Think of it as an anthology of different stories unfolding at the same time, on the same stage.

A few loops in this particular performance are that of a woman measuring the distance to nowhere in particular, slowly turning anxious; this anxiety is the result of her loop. Another one is of a man checking himself with a stethoscope, while another person discovers a lock and a key on the road, wondering what to do with it. A rather ghastly loop is that of a woman burying her dead husband, over and over again.

“It essentially explores the actions or series of acts done by a body in virtue of repeating. Which then reaches a certain state of mind,” says Sujay Saple, the director of the performance, adding that this repetition is meant to create an emotional stir in the audience.  

The director reveals that the theme of the performance started off with nothing concrete, but the imagination of many bodies in one space at one time. “When you watch the characters at play, you will not find much difference between them and you. They are in the same space and time as we are. It’s just that their pattern of actions is different,” he says.

“Theatre is usually narrative based, as is written in the text. This performance is already at the outset, aiming to move away from the traditional style of narrative,” says Atul Kumar, actor and director of The Company Theatre, adding that they don’t have a written script for the performance. Instead they have timings fixed of the performers and the loops they are to be bound in.

So does the monotony of the loop bore the audience? The director points out that after a certain point in the show, it is the psychological state of the performers that begins to visibly change, and that is what the audience relates to.

“I tell my actors to stop acting, stop trying to create and show. Just be in your body, focus on how you are moving and shifting your weight. When you do that and repeat the actions, it allows automatic access to a certain psychological state,” says Sujay.

Atul, who is also part of the 25 bodies in the performance, plays an old man. The actor says that This Is All There Is When There Is All This is basically an experiment in time and space, which relies purely on the ability of the actors to be convincing of their characters, and taking the loop forward. “Being the only old person in the group, it is wonderful to see how all these young people carry the impression of the city, the environment they have grown up in. All this becomes a part of the performance, in a tactile sense,” smiles Atul.   

Tags: the company theatre, tango