“Mana”, staged at Kingdom of Dreams, presented the universal “good versus evil” theme with the aid of a dominant visual element

Presented by an internationally known touring French company at Kingdom of Dreams, Gurgaon, last week, “Mana” is a magnificent work of theatrical art that asserts the victory of good over evil. It blends elements of drama, opera, ballet and circus, the surrealistic images it projects transcending the barriers of time, space and language. The myriad imagery in deep and multiple colours and shades, the dramatic intensity and the use of sounds and music combine to create an artistic whole and cast a spell on the audience. The show, which seeks to bring about harmony in a chaotic universe, explores the expressive frontiers of theatre both horizontally and vertically.

Based on a Polynesian legend, Mana is treated as a sacred impersonal force that protects the universe. She also symbolises a source of spiritual energy endowed with healing power. Though Mana, the Goddess, is most powerful, she has a formidable enemy in Volcania, the Goddess of Fire, who is obsessed with the morbid desire to become the most powerful of all elements. Volcania plots to destroy Mana. Perfagor, an evil force, comes forward to collaborate in her evil design. Then there is the naïve Goddess of Earth who agrees to join these forces with the promise that Volcania would ensure her an eternal spring for all seasons. Oceane, the Goddess of Water, is a sworn enemy of Volcania. The ocean has a trusted ally in the God of Air.

A relentless war is waged between the forces of good and evil on a battlefield that extends to air, ocean and earth. This is a bloody war of elements, transforming universe into a terrifying battlefield. The surrealistic imagery makes the presentation incredibly spectacular, changing shapes with fantastic lighting and sound effects.

We first experience the serenity of a universe being protected and enriched by Mana, and then this serenity is ruptured and destroyed by the fury of Volcania. Soon enough the entire space is engulfed with the illusion of menacing fire. We are under the illusion that the fury of the fire is reaching us. Such spectacles are rarely seen on the Delhi stage. Gripped with a sense of wonder, awe and fear, we feel that there is little hope for Mana’s survival, and that with her destruction the universe would naturally collapse. But in this war between good and evil Mana is not alone. Goddess Oceane retaliates against Volcania with all her force. This follows the projection of a mysterious world of the deep ocean. We watch the variety of living creatures moving happily in the bottom of the sea. The myriad creatures in a multiplicity of colours, all swimming in the blue, deep water, transport the audience to a fantastic world, a world serene, harmonious, and full of life.

There are images of clouds floating in the sky. There are visuals of red roses in a variety of shapes and sizes that emerge before our eyes to offer us a soothing and aesthetic experience.

Every action has a beautifully designed décor that keeps on changing smoothly and swiftly. One of the most fantastic surrealistic imageries is provided by a huge crystal ball in which Viperia, the dragon-headed evil element, an ally of Volcania, dwells.

One of the striking features of the show is the skill of its cast numbering 15. The performers appear to be highly trained in opera, ballet and circus, and they could sing and create a variety of balletic poses with grace. They could perform acrobatic feats, and glide up and down on huge drapery while we watch awe-struck. The production unfolds with a cinematic pace in a seamless manner.

The colours of the costumes and décor have symbolic meaning. We watch different types and sizes of dragons; those with deep, gaudy colours symbolise evil, while a huge dragon in white stands for peace and harmony. In the form of a puppet, this huge dragon is taken by the puppeteers to the audience in the auditorium. A similarly huge puppet of a fish proves to have a lively rapport with the audience, the children in the hall enjoying the touch and feel of these puppets.

The show ends on a happy note celebrating “a place of peace, harmony, a place where every character finds what he is looking for, where the good and the bad have made peace” through a beautifully rendered song.

(More shows till August 18, 2013.)

Keywords: Manamusical theatre