Having a broken DVD player (why do they use that word… like ‘broken’ souls.. it’s not really in pieces, is it?) on a Sunday evening offers an advantage. It means an excuse to head for a play, at long last. Titled Remember Remember, the production by Bangalore based Tahatto company claims to be a set of 5 plays. One expected a khichdi made of grains of broken-up tales, each with separate whiffs. I ended up giving a standing ovation to what can only be described as a parfum a la deja vu.
Remember Remember, based on the theme of memories and stories, kindles the audience’s grey matter, quickens the pulse rate, along with a sprinkle of tickles to the funny bone. The action starts well before the clock struck seven. As we chatter under the dimmed lights, the stage glows with warming-up singing, smiles and brief interactive chanting exercises.
The cast begins by watching us for a change. While they comment on the stillness of the crowd, I observe how they transform the use of the stage. Space is maximized, ironically, with the actors huddled close together. Apart from allowing viewers a show where they don’t have to keep turning their necks as if a ping pong game was on, it gives a sense of harmony…albeit a cliched term. Nevertheless, it brings up the question: haven’t we all seen or been part of trust exercises, while falling behind into colleagues’ arms? The performers of Tahatto do so too, while effortlessly exuding a tapestry of togetherness. This is despite being cast in varied hues of roles.
The lack of distance between them, contrasts with the plethora of pauses throughout all the performances. The last play I attended was when one desperately waited for each dialogue to flow into another, and pack a punch. Now, I revel in the momentary breaks of silence. Speaking of which, the adverb is used in the third performance- Everybody needs an Imaginary Friend– “One revels in madness!”. When was the last time even a movie declared such unsettling openness?
Thereby comes the paradox of ‘honesty amidst pretense’ in well-directed theater productions. ZenTen is a story of an app which enables a couple to zip back ten seconds in life, trying to make a perfect story. Their constant mobile-phone clicking makes us squirm, reminding us how glued to technology we as netizens are. We wouldn’t be the only ones feeling a bit awkward, if a politician or two is seated in the hall: The Pied Piper Remembers and The Woman who lost her Stories are peppered with the most satirical yet neutral jabs one has seen on stage. The former play can be complimented for not only the aesthetically designed dragon masks, but for the use of wavy ribbons to add movement. Movement is never a lapse in the entire series- be it the act of flying, the rocking back and forth in a train sequence, the seamless humdrum of activity in a diverse Indian neighbourhood or the gentle tossing of passengers on a boat steered by realistic rowing.
Such actions may indicate childishness to some readers of this review. But there is a difference between ‘childishness’ and ‘being transported back to childhood’. The latter is designed to refresh memories, and ignite creation of new ones. Which is what The Woman who lost her Stories sums up aptly.
The woman finds stories again and I grin. If a soulless broken DVD player can be fixed, then why not a broken thread of memories, lost in the din of the daily grind?
There are many other commendable touches, such as the smattering of Madrasi Urdu, or the actions of a man in the train. He scratches his head, fiddles with an earlobe and wipes his nose with a shawl as the narrative proceeds. In Everybody Needs… there is not one, but two actors performing in the same role of the imaginary friend. There is no given explanation. But it adds much mirth and meaning. The drum-beating and the soothing live singing add delicate musical touches. The soundscape, both on-stage and effects-wise, was well coordinated. A brief part of the dragon slaying scene had me wishing the female actor didn’t have to screech.
Given the pluses, this and other shaky points seem negligible. Perhaps our minds were so impressed with the production, that we chose to keep only memories that will be welcomed over coffee and conversations. Yes, I will remember, remember Writer and Director Prashanth Nair’s triumph while sipping cuppas for as long as my memory lasts…