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Exploring new spaces

Rafiki's production defied notions of proscenium theatre



EXPERIMENT In search of Hamlet was a heartening experience Photo: Bhagya Prakash K.

One of the primary problems with much of theatre nowadays is the shackling that occurs in a pre-defined stage space. For most groups, the stage space comes with its own preconceived notions, which might not be wrong but aren't always correct either. Which is why the play titled In Search of Hamlet by Rafiki was such a heartening experience.

The performance, incorporating deeply personal perspectives of the various actors on life, breaks down the conception of stage space with eight short sketches playing out at eight different locations on the premises of the Indian Foundation for the Arts. Moving back and forth from the street to the building's terrace to a treed yard, the eight sketches looked at varied issues such as education, infidelity to lunacy, all loosely tied together by the common thread of the frustrations of modern Indian life.

With the varied performance spaces available, the play was strongly physical, making effective use of levels and space to draw the audience into the performance in ways that a proscenium experience cannot.

The feeling of being within the immediate environment of the action rather than a detached observer made the performance all the more relatable to the audience. And the use of simplistic language and plot devices heightened the level of involvement.

However, it must be said that the performance had much more potential that had not been explored. Though the open-ended script meant that the performances were highly instinctual and hence very real, the spontaneity of the lines created a lack of rational thought.

Moreover, the quality of the individual sketches also varied with the amount of text involved. Thus the most convincing performances were also the most abstract, highlighting movement and action and downplaying cerebral roadblocks.

RAKESH MEHAR

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