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Wrong male, wrong address

However honest the attempt may be, the plays manifested themselves as somewhat overdressed slogans



WELL MEANING It is difficult to fault the content of the plays

There is just one really good way to win an argument: Don't let the other side speak. That's the message you could carry back from the staging of two one-actor plays — Eddélu and Medea, translated from joint works by Dario Fo and Franca Ramé, Rise and Shine and Medea. The plays, packaged into a single evening, are directed by Soumya Varma and performed by Laxmi Chandrashekhar.

Handicapped

The one-actor play, on the wide performance area at the Rangashankara, is already handicapped by a certain lack of intellectual, theatrical and popular ambition. It seems like the hall is easily accessible in terms of cost and positioning and productions can be mounted quickly. Also, too easily. The one-actor play, a somewhat unfortunate trend in Kannada theatre, is to be faulted for taking the easy way out.

In Laxmi Chandrashekhar's performance of the two plays, the argument for the imagined sorority against a male-ordered universe is like a funny speech in the first instance, and a crazy tantrum in the second. It is difficult to fault the content of the plays for purpose. In the first play, Eddélu, the working woman gets up in the morning and runs about in a scatter-brained, headless-chicken kind of way performing her usual routine to get to work: Mind the baby, wash, mind the baby, cook, mind the baby, get dressed, mind the baby... you know, just like mother did and, probably, wife does? The woman mixes up washing powder for talcum powder, honey for castor oil and so on, the baby keeps doing su su and poo poo. She misplaces the key, talks to herself and the messing infant till she finally realises it is a Sunday. The man sleeps on, in the meantime.

It could be embarrassing for most men because it is quite accurate. But that is precisely its problem too. But, before that, the next play.

Medea, in contrast, is a stomach-churning story of a crazed woman who decides to massacre her children to spite her husband Jason because he chooses to indulge himself with younger flesh. Spite, perhaps, is the wrong word. Whatever that will do will do, but it is difficult to rationalise her act in civilised debate, which precisely is what makes the material so suitable for drama. But where's the debate? Director Varma realises this and attempts a bewildering split-personality technique of a conservative woman versus the emerging new woman.

The slogan

The one-actor show, especially if it is loaded with obvious message, could easily reduce itself to the value of the slogan.

However honest the attempt may be, the plays produced manifested themselves as somewhat overdressed slogans, awkwardly staged on a very large performing space, in a sophisticated hall. Everything was a little too comfortable. Even if one is asked to move beyond prejudice about the one-actor play and look to dramatic dialogue with the audience, it beats intent. The street play-style of play must be performed in the street, to working lower-middle class audiences.

Even the stage design for the plays was awkward, even artificial. If the first play was remarkable for sheer lack of design, the second could be faulted for doing too much. In the first, the house of the scatter-brained woman is arranged like a buffet for items to be found and business conducted, just large enough to fill the Rangashankara space than facilitate a tightness of blocking and action. The second with elaborate drapes, motifs, lighting and stylisation seems like an attempt to come to terms with taking a play with revolutionary content to an audience that is cool, a little blasé and takes what it gets at Rangashankara. In an honest fight, we need to pick somebody our size, the size of struggle.

PRAKASH BELAWADI

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