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Monday, 30 July 2012

The stage is set. Let the show begin.


Theatre

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven.

                                               --Shakespeare- As you like it


An empty stage is like an empty canvass or the first leaf of a book. The anticipation of the possibilities is almost palpable! I am told that as a kid, when watching TV or fascinated by any adult conversation, Id sit with chin cupped in my hands, eyes and mouth wide open, absorbing everything, not saying a word. As an adult, every word out of an actor’s mouth 2 feet away from my seat has the same impact on me. I’m fascinated!


My love for the theatre started when I was back in college, courtesy CS. The first play I had watched was at an artsy fartsy experimental theatre and I was enthralled. From the milling of the intelligentsia before the show started to a standing ovation when it ended, it was the beginning of something wonderful for me. Watching a visual masterpiece like the  Lion King ( albeit 4 times!!) at the London West End, to a college play at Cambridge, from a street theatre in the City of Joy, to Bernard Shaw’s adaption 2 days ago, I still get excited waiting in the queue like it was the first time at the theatre for me.
The stage draws one towards something real, and not so real. It enthralls, excites and relates to each and everyone present in the hall. It’s almost like an out of body experience for one. Life played by someone else on a patch of land and what one does is peek from behind the curtains, seen yet unseen.
“Theatres are curious places, magician's trick-boxes where the golden memories of dramatic triumphs linger like nostalgic ghosts, and where the unexplainable, the fantastic, the tragic, the comic and the absurd are routine occurrences on and off the stage. Murders, mayhem, political intrigue, lucrative business, secret assignations, and of course, dinner.”
                                  
-- E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly
What always amazes me about the stage is the talent. It is a humbling experience that one so real, and tangible, right in front, can transform into something so beautiful, larger than life, so quickly in front of ones eyes!  Only 3 characters present in the West End production of “Woman in Black”, playing over 20 roles and in a matter of 2 hours, every single person in that theatre, gasped, screamed with terror, shed a tear and smiled. How can one not be fascinated?
It will be amiss for me not to mention the play I saw a fortnight ago, “King Lear- The clown”, by Rajat Kapoor. The stage is set; we wait for the cue cards to be moved from the stage. We didn’t know what to expect, other than it should be interesting act as it was a one man play, and an adaptation of Shakespeare’s work. Onto the stage comes a very unassuming little man with floppy shoes, dressed as a clown. The crowd is indulgent. The clown starts speaking in a quite shy voice, profusely apologizing for his inexperience. Then slowly he delves into his character, and I was flabbergasted. His one act made me relate to so many factors and people in my life, that being rather critical of so many performances, I cried. I couldn’t help myself. I had goose bumps when he made Lear’s famous speech-
"Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanes, spout
Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Strike flat the thick rotundity o' the world!
Crack nature's moulds, all germens spill at once
That make ingrateful man!"
Shakespeare would have been proud. What power, what eclecticism do we men have over words and actions! The power to move, to drive oneself to heights and fall to the depths like waves crashing against jagged rocks. The house lights went up and I clapped till my palms hurt.
Art imitates Life. And at times it’s the other way around.  We will always be peeping toms, relishing and reveling in  the guilty pleasure of seeing life of others, because when we indulge in these guilty pleasures we see facets of such power in our weakness and depth in our humdrum life, that one is forced to think, Maybe its not so bad after all.
“Humans had built a world inside the world, which reflected it in pretty much the same way as a drop of water reflected the landscape. And yet ... and yet ...
Inside this little world they had taken pains to put all the things you might think they would want to escape from — hatred, fear, tyranny, and so forth. Death was intrigued. They thought they wanted to be taken out of themselves, and every art humans dreamt up took them further
in. He was fascinated.”
                                                       --Terry Pratchett, Wyrd Sisters
So I shall yet again aspire to wait for the house lights to dim, cue cards to be moved and wait for the “show” to start. Let’s see if this time I can fathom, who the actors are and who the audience is.

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