During the last week of April I happened to see the play Water Station directed by Shankar Venkateshwaran for Neenasam Marutirugaata 2011, at Heggodu Shivarama Karantha Ranga Mandira. Like many, I too feared before entering the hall to watch the play because I was told by a few that the play moves in slow motion. A friend’s father said, “You have to make yourself sit and watch the play for the first half an hour and then it will grip you…” But the play gripped me from the moment it began. It kept giving a different kind of experience mainly through its slow motion.
Soon after the play I had sent sms to a few friends saying that I had watched the play Water Station written by the Japanese playwright Ohto Shogo and had liked it. While sending the message I had decided to watch the play again in Udupi on the 10 of May, which I did.
As I entered the hall I told my friend Shrisha that the stage at Ravindra Mantapa, MGM, Udupi, was too small for the play and spoilt the play, because of its space, to a certain extent. Now I read in a website comments complaining about how the audiences of Udupi were made to sweat while watching the play and also how the lights almost hitting the heads of the actors was causing discomfort for the audiences too.
While I totally agree that these factors did cause ‘rasa-bhanga’ I would not say that it was the fault in the play. The problem here was with the hall, which is not a hall for theater productions. It is for seminars. So now we must be speaking of the kind of halls we have for theater productions. We must accept, while we learn from this particular production, especially, how space of the stage itself can make a difference, that having a proper stage for theater productions is important for every city/ town and that not every stage can be used for theater productions. This must also push us to have decent halls with spacious stage, in every city and town, for theater productions.
The Ranga Mandira at Heggodu is spacious and so is the stage. In that stage the characters of the play looked small and weak which added to their weariness. But the shrunken space of stage in Udupi could not make the characters look as weak and weary as the Heggodu stage could, purely because of the space. It is sad that the play, in Udupi, appeared like nothing but a gimmick through slow motion because of the shrunken space.
I had told myself that I wouldn’t write about this production because I am still wondering how to understand the play and which entry point to take to look at the play. But the discussion in a website has made me pen down my observation of the play at Heggodu and in Udupi and say that the problem in Udupi was mainly because of the stage and space.
As I said I am still trying to understand the play completely and am asking myself, “what is it in the play which made me like it so much?” The slow motion, though caused irritation to quite a few, I liked it. In place of heightening the emotions, which usually theater does, this production, in place of heightening the emotions, was deepening the emotions by its slow motion.
The play experiments not only with its movement but also with the text and the space while it doesn’t have a story a plot or a drama as such. That is why when senior friend told me that the play was a display of post-modernism explaining why he disliked the play; I told him that I do not understand what post modernism is but the play, to me, appeared close to post-dramatic because it had divorced the drama element in it and had moved with theater alone.
But then we cannot forget the complaints that Safdar Hasmi had against Badal Sircar saying Badal concentrated more on the form making content secondary and concentrated more on how to do and not what to do.
I ask myself as to what did the content of the play have to tell me? To me it was a caravan of people torn apart by history who still have the quest for life and keep walking ahead. It showcased the optimism of the will even while not staging it as triumph of the will. This too can be seen as the history of Japan which gets up strong after every blow it receives. But then did its form emerge out of its content? Or are the content and form slightly disconnected from each other?
As I make these comments, I know that the play had something more or something else than what I could grasp in two viewings. I am yet to decipher the play but still am thinking aloud in my blog. The play is still unfolding within me and I am still trying to understand the play Water Station. But there is no doubt that I enjoyed the production, at Heggodu.