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  Entertainment   In Other News  02 Jan 2017  Through a room darkly

Through a room darkly

THE ASIAN AGE. | SOMUDRA BANERJEE
Published : Jan 2, 2017, 12:14 am IST
Updated : Jan 2, 2017, 6:28 am IST

A theatre production gives the audience a sensory experience like no other as they perform in a darkroom.

The entire cast and crew of The Darkroom Project.
 The entire cast and crew of The Darkroom Project.

Imagine yourself blindfolded and being chaperoned inside a performance theatre. The first thing that will touch your senses is perhaps the smell of roasted potatoes and then you hold a lollipop. All of this could be the scheme of things in a play titled The Darkroom Project.

The play, which premiered in April 2016, has done about 15 shows to much appreciation and now in this New Year they are back with a performance, which is meant to put the audience in an uncomfortable situation. “The idea is to give the audience a greater sensory experience than the usual plays that go around in the city,” says Tushar Dalvi, the director of the play and founder of the group Rangaai Theatre. Explaining further, he adds, “When people come to watch a play, they usually expect entertainment, but here we want them to participate and interact with the performance.”

The audience enters the theatre blindfolded and as they are taken to their seats, they are handed a lollipop. “The moment the audience enters, our performance begins. We stay in character even while we are showing them the way. This way, we try to build a bond of trust with our audience — it shows how much they want to participate with us. Even the lollipop that we give to each of the audience members has a connection with one of the stories,” says Tushar.

Other than photographic analogy, the performance leans heavily on music and storytelling. “We haven’t adapted the stories, we narrate the stories,” he says.

The play begins before the audience is asked to remove the blindfold. “It puts them in a position of discomfort, there is always a sense of irritation that is evoked through it,” he explains.

The idea is also inspired from the cinematic experiment of Smell-o-Vision, a technique developed by Hans Laube for the 1960 film Scent of Mystery, where odours would be released at points in the films. “We wanted such sensory associations. That’s why when the audience enters; we roast potatoes on an electric heater — which also comes in one of the stories. So, in a way our performance begins even before the audience enters the hall,” Tushar adds.

The play is based on five short stories, four of which are classics from the canon of literature and one is an anomymous piece. “Durga Poojo,” says Tushar, “is based on a true story of child abuse and it’s written by the person in the story.” The other stories in the play are Kafan by Munshi Premchand, Lihaaf by Ismat Chughtai, Khol Do by Saadat Hasan Manto, and The Little Match-Girl by Hans Christian Andersen. Interestingly, the performance sets an analogy with the process of photo making. “Usually in a dark room, one makes negatives from a film into positive images. Similarly, here the negatives are the stories, and the impression created on the audience’s mind is the positive image,” adds Tushar.

Manto and Chugtai’s stories are popular for their dark subject matter and their treatment. Even the other stories, Tushar clarifies, are equally dark and uncomfortable. “There is dark comedy, but the idea is to give a holistic experience. The entire performance takes place under a red light — just like in a darkroom — with photographs hung around to dry,” he says. With dark stories and dark room, the project is an experience that Tushar hints is not meant for the weak hearted. This year, Tushar and his team are looking forward to more shows and are also planning to work more elaborately on Manto’s short stories.

The Darkroom Project — An Experimental Story Telling on January 7, at The Jeff Goldberg Studio, Gazebo House , Hill Road, Bandra (W).
Tickets: Rs 300

Tags: theatre, new year, music, darkroom