MacTrics’ Circus is not just about bringing back Charlie Chaplin’s cult classic. It is also about telling a story for modern times, without words

Finally, Charlie Chaplin seems to have arrived in Chennai, and he hops out of Chennai Central station and runs past Victoria Hall, before disappearing inside a circus. MacTrics’ play Circus is not just about bringing back a cult classic or its protagonist to life but also about telling a story for modern times, without words.

Circus is my favourite film and I think anyone who could make a film like that is a genius purely because of the challenges he must have faced while making it. Chaplin has said in many interviews that it is a movie he wishes to forget as it brought him many troubles,” says Victor Jayaraj M, director of the play. “Charlie Chaplin is known as an actor, director, writer, musician and so on. But not many people know that there was a mummer inside him. Our play is a tribute to that aspect of the legend.”

The mime incorporates four shots from the original film. Charlie Chaplin is looking for a job. He gets thrown out of each one he takes up and during the course of this, gets a letter from his father who writes that he is worried about him. He also writes that he intuitively knows that his son would become a great entertainer one day. And so, in a mix of events, Chaplin accidently reaches Chennai by train.

As he is getting out, he is mistaken for a thief by the police and they begin to chase him. He runs into Victoria Hall, next door and then into the circus. “The Circus of 1928 is rather different from circuses of today. We wanted to keep this part of the show contemporary so that people can see the differences now,” says Victor.

On his entry into the circus, Chaplin begins to fancy a woman there and in chasing her, is trapped in a cage with a white lion. This act makes him a huge hit with the audience. And so, he decides to stay on and is offered a job with the circus. It is then that he finds out that his lady love is the circus owner’s daughter. His love story is put to the test with the arrival of a tight-rope walker. Will Chaplin’s love survive?

Venue: Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Concert Hall, Harrington Road, Chetpet

Date: August 16, 7.30 p.m.

Director's Cut

Victor Jayaraj M.

Since the play is a mime; what kind of formations will you have and how many people are working on them? The formations, you said, are rehearsed separately and so, how do you connect them together? Which was the toughest sequence to perform?

People watch our plays for our formations and this time, we wanted to be bigger and better. Some of our difficult formations will be that of Central Station, Victoria Hall and the circus itself. We’re also trying to capture The Dome of Death on mime, which is turning out to be quite a challenge. About 40 people are working to get this together and each team practises their formations separately. They send me a video when they’re done with their week’s practise and I use this to make corrections and form links between different scenes. The toughest mime sequence will probably be when Chaplin is running away from the station and Victoria Hall towards the circus. As he runs forward, the formations will have to walk backwards, in order to signify the distance. These structures will be about 15 feet high and any error will send the whole formation toppling.

How do you make these formations? And do you think people will be able to recognise them?

I’ve been involved with mime since school and so it’s become easy for me to come up with formations. If I have a picture of the building, I can draw them quite quickly. I think, with formations, mime artists put 95 per cent of the effort and the rest is with the audience to figure out what it is. For Central Station, we’ll have the main tower and two side towers, the clock and the local ambience and so on. Sometime back, we had done a play called Chennapatnam where we formed important monuments in Chennai such as Central Station, Kapaleeswarar temple, AVM studios and others and found that the audience could pick up these hints and recognise them.

What are your thoughts on bringing Charlie Chaplin back to life in a contemporary version of his own work?

Initially, I was worried. Chaplin is short while our actor is over six feet. But I tell people he’s a contemporary Chaplin. People keep asking me if I will be able to recreate a classic but being the director, I have taken some creative liberties. Chaplin has a signature style but I’ve improvised and changed some things to suit miming. As for the leading lady, it took me a while to find a woman for the role. They seem to be put off either by the long hours or the physical stress that comes with learning this form of theatre. In fact, in my play, the female lead is introduced in a scene where she balances on a running horse. It takes about eight hours of practise everyday to get the balance and form right. But I want to see more women in mime and hopefully they will be more forthcoming after they see this performance.

The Schedule:

Aug 10: How to Skin a Giraffe (Perch, Chennai)

Aug 11: A Walk in the Woods (Motley, Mumbai)

Aug 15: The Tale of Haruk (Performance Group Tuida, Korea)

Aug 16: Circus (MacTrics, Chennai)

Aug 17: Some Times (Akvarious Productions, Mumbai)

Aug 18: Romeo and Juliet - No Strings Attached (Tahatto, Bangalore)

Venue: Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall, Harrington Road, Chetpet

Time: 7.30 p.m.

For the detailed schedule of MPTF 2013 in all five cities, click here.

Tickets:

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