Lullaby, Stranger will be ditching the traditional proscenium setting for an interactive one.
When classmates Sujay Saple and Salome Rebello were in St. Xavier’s College, they couldn’t have imagined that they would be producing an experimental choral concert in the coming years. Sujay, a theatre director, actor and choreographer, and Salome, a choral conductor, after years of wanting to collaborate, have combined their passion for a unique performance aptly titled Lullaby, Stranger. And, unlike a traditional concert or theatre performance, Lullaby, Stranger will be ditching the traditional proscenium setting for an interactive one, with the audience lying down on mattresses while the singers, performers, and the conductor merge the space to truly explore the meaning of intimacy.
The performance will have singers and performers appear and disappear as they move in a choreographed sequence around the audience. The idea is to become more intimate and unfamiliar at the same time. For Sujay and Salome, the idea struck with the need of breaking away from conventionality. Sujay, who’s the founder of experimental dance-theatre group ShapeShift, says, “We both wanted to push our boundaries. I wanted to make something that people just don’t watch, but experience in a more sensorial way, from within. And she too wanted to make a concert that people just simply don’t listen, but also experience.”
Intimacy is one aspect of human understanding, that everyone is privy to, and yet not so much. The concert is designed for the audience to explore intimacy on a sensorial realm, while on the bed. And for Sujay, a bed is an ideal metaphor for a modern man’s experience of privacy, solitude, and everything intimate. He says, “The bed is a site where human beings truly experience various kind of intimacies, not just that of a lover, but also of a mother and a child, health and sickness, deathbed, day-dreaming, zoning-out, remembering memories, nostalgia, and other introspective monologues.” He adds, “It’s natural for everybody, and we wanted to ride that experience, expand it and go deeper into that moment when you lie down and drift. The spaces you drift into will reveal a lot about you.”
As it is a choral concert, the primary connector and signifier will be the sound. And so, keeping to the theme, Salome designed the repertoire to have songs of love, loneliness, lullabies, erotic fantasies, prayer and death from various cultures and languages, including German, Kashmiri, Japanese, Swedish, Arabic, Latin and English. Talking about the diversity of the songs, the Jerusalem-based conductor says, “When it’s English, you can access the text, but if you don’t know what they are saying, then somehow you really experience the sound being sung. Sometimes, the music that you can’t understand can be more powerful than the ones you can. We are trying to take the audience on an emotional journey, without them knowing what’s being precisely said. The music does that work.”
For the actor and singer Mansi Multani, this is the first time in an immersive piece. She says, “Since we are not playing characters, we are embodying the experience in ourselves, through this piece, and the music we are singing.” Not only does, the intimacy of the audience is in question, but also of the performers’. “ It’s going to require a different level of awareness, and it has to be skewed because the performance is very nuanced. How are we crossing into their spaces; if we look at them, how do we look at them; if we are sharing a space with them, then how comforting our gaze needs to be. I think this piece is designed, one way or the other to be an experience,” she says. Adding to this, Salome adds, “As performers and singers, we are learning how every action and step has such an immense value.”
The Lullaby, Strangers is a ShapeShift production, and will be performed at G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture on August 10 to 12, at 6:00pm and 9:00pm.