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Theatre with punch



Stage — Intimate and private. — Pic. by N. Sridharan

IT IS the age of launches. Early this week it was by Masquerade launching its 2005-06 theatre season in collaboration with Cedars, the first restaurant to bring the flavours of Lebanon to Chennai.

They called it an evening of Punch Theatre, perhaps because the show started at 7.30 p.m. and the food that followed wasn't quite supper and the audience washed down the four solo theatre performances with glasses of punch, of the tame variety! The small private lawn off the main restaurant, walled in with bamboo, was a nice choice for an aesthetically designed, intimate space for about 50 persons. In time one even got acclimatised to the blaring traffic noise and the biting insects.

Masquerade called it a bare-stage production, and the acting area was by and large bare. There were lights — white, warm, blue and red — a good selection of music and collar mikes. Directed and designed by Krishna Kumar S. (KK), the hour-long evening opened with KK performing The Janitor (August Wilson). The janitor while cleaning the hall before a conference, takes the podium and delivers his thoughts and his opinions. We realise that, in a world of unequal opportunities, the views of the marginalised don't count. A very touching piece that KK didn't fully explore, quite surprising for an actor who usually gives good performances.

Kafka's ``Bucket Rider" performed by Freddy Koikaran was a sensitively done piece about a man `riding' on an empty bucket, trying hopelessly to keep poverty and cold at bay. He tries to cling on to the last shreds of dignity while begging for coal.

Jackals and Arabs, again from Kafka, sincerely done by Krishnan was a less transparent piece. The political innuendos and shades of racism made it provocatively interesting. Jose Rivera's ``Gas," performed by Samanth Subramaniam showed a Puerto Rican American thinking about his spastic younger brother fighting on behalf of his country in Iraq, for gas (oline).

Maybe he is dead, who knows? If only he had been more sensitive to his little brother's feelings and needs? The contemplation takes the man through sadness, pain, remorse and more pain. While the piece was well handled by Samanth Subramaniam, he should have slowed it down enough to go through the entire gamut of emotions.

The idea of an intimate, a private sort of theatre with an excuse for the audience to stay on, mingle, and spend time in discussion is essentially a good one. Who knows, perhaps in time the situation will feel less contrived and fall into place.

One disadvantage the evening faced was that the memory of earlier performance of at least some of the pieces by a different set of actors at the Museum Theatre was still fresh in minds, and comparative evaluations distracted from looking at the evening as if for the first time.

ELIZABETH ROY

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