Pip Utton and Jailoshini Naidoo gave the Delhi audience memorable moments at their performances during the festival “Going Solo” held recently.
Two performers of international repute, during solo performances at FICCI auditorium recently, offered the audience an exciting theatrical experience. The actors’ body language, the subtlety of their dialogue delivery and their manner of establishing lively rapport with the audience confirmed that the theatrical art truly belonged to them. They brought to life dry facts of history, investing them with universal meaning. The performers, featured at the festival “Going Solo” under the auspices of Teamwork, were Pip Utton of the U.K. and Jailoshini Naidoo from South Africa. They have already participated at the Ediburgh Fringe Festival-2013.
British writer-actor Pip Utton enacted the life, achievements and times of Winston Churchill and his role in the Second World War. He starts his solo performance standing on a pedestal as a statue of Churchill. His Churchill expresses his envy of the statue of Nelson Madela, South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, which he considers more imposing and attracting more people. In an exuberant tone he invites a member of the audience to help him descend from the pedestal. Coming down, he changes costumes, holds a cigar and occupies centre-stage. He captures Churchill’s life, including his childhood, his parents, the aristocratic background of his family, his childhood days in the company of his brother, his charming wife and their blissful conjugal relationship.
Here in front of the audience stands a historic personality who played decisive role for over 50 years in international politics, especially in the Second World War as the Prime Minister of Britain, forging an alliance with Stalin’s Soviet Union to inflict ingenious defeat on Hitler. It was a moment of glory for Britain led by Churchill. He was the hero of the people. Contrary to expectations, the hero was defeated in the general elections held after the war. Labour Party leader Clement Attlee took over as Prime Minister. However, once again he became Prime Minister (1951 to 1955). Pip also tells us that Churchill was a historian, a highly paid writer who won the Nobel Prize in literature.
Pip’s artistry lies in sustaining the lively mood of his production, along with his spontaneity and informality which enable him to establish a direct rapport with the audience. He keeps moving from one space to another. His moments are charged with dramatic force. His imaging of the character, who was one of the greatest wartime leaders of the 20th century, is vivid and full of life.
(Pip avoids Churchill’s conservative political philosophy and his reactionary attitude towards the colonial people and their liberation struggle against imperialism.)
“Adolf” was another solo piece presented by Pip at the festival. By presenting these two totally diverse characters with diametrically different world outlook, he displays his consummate histrionic artistry. He truly lives his characters, offering the audience intensely absorbing moments.
In contrast to his interpretation of Churchill, Pip interprets Adolf Hitler’s philosophy on a grim note that has a scary impact on the audience. His Churchill is beautifully enchanting, while his Hitler provokes, shocks and intimidates.
Pip’s Adolf is a master strategist to spread hatred and anger among people to capture the state apparatus. He has the power to convince the people that he alone can restore Germans their lost glory and can bring about economic resurgence of a country devastated on all fronts. After diagnosing the ills of the country, he recommends drastic remedial measures. He exhorts his listeners regarding the ‘supremacy’ of the German race. According to him, Jews, communists and homosexuals are the enemies of Germany and the German people and they should be exterminated. While reminding the German people about the Treaty of Versailles, 1918, by which the Allied Powers imposed humiliating conditions on Germany, Pip powerfully provides the historical background that laid the groundwork for the rise of Nazism in Germany, leading to the outbreak of the Second World War.
While Pip’s “Churchill” is a show to be viewed with delight, projecting a vibrant portrait of a historical figure who led a rich and meaningful life, his “Adolf” has a remarkable relevance to the world, with the message that racial hatred, chauvinism and malignant exhortation of national superiority can lead to the emergence of Right-wing dictatorship.
The third solo play was presented by Jailoshini Naidoo of South Africa, a leading theatre and television artist. Entitled “At The Edge”, written by eminent playwright Govender based on his book of the same title, the play is directed by Sharupa Dutta. It is set in the apartheid period of South African history when the Group Area Act was being implemented with brute force by the state. (According to the Group Area Act 1950, urban apartheid was implemented to remove non-whites from the developed areas for settling the whites. The uprooted non-whites were allotted small pieces of land in far flung areas.)
Naidoo portrays a non-white who is served with the notice to vacate his house which he has built with great care, spending his hard earned money. Undaunted by the inhuman orders for vacation, he defies the law. This is a battle between the powerful apartheid state and a lone non-white citizen whose only strength is his determination to defy unjust orders.
Naidoo creates multiple characters that interact with the protagonist. She captures the idiosyncrasies of these characters, stepping out of one character to enter into another effortlessly, displaying remarkable variations, evoking wide ranging moods. She ends her show with a touch of irony and pathos when the protagonist dies and the family is allowed to remain in the house until the mourning period is over.