A peek at How To Skin A Giraffe that opens The Hindu MetroPlus Theatre Fest. Lakshmi Krupa has a chat with director Rajiv Krishnan
The cast and crew of Perch and Rafiki, theatre groups from Chennai and Bengaluru, join theatre professionals around the world in celebrating the 200th birthday of German playwright Georg Büchner with their production How to Skin a Giraffe. It was the Goethe Institute that planted the seeds for this production, after the groups’ first outing with Miss Meena, an adaptation of The Visit by Friedrich Durrenmatt. “Initially, we wanted to stage an adaptation of his, Leonce and Lena. It is one of the lesser performed comedies of Büchner,” says Rajiv Krishnan, director of the play. His plan was to present a play that looked like the old ‘company nadagams’ of Madras. “What seemed like a simple comedy, at first, turned out to be a multi-layered play.” Leonce and Lena is a social commentary on the nobility of Büchner’s times, their indifference to the sufferings of people around them and also about those people who were subservient without questioning those above them. It talks about how people are all puppets. We didn’t think we could do a company nadagam with the adaptation. So we scrapped the plan and decided to go with our own play inspired by Leonce and Lena.”
Perch created the entire play and invited actors from Rafiki, a theatre group from Bengaluru. “Six actors in the play are from Rafiki and the rest are from Perch,” Rajiv says.
While How to Skin a Giraffe draws heavily from Büchner’s original, it is not a verbatim adaptation. The play is about two people who are about to be married off to each other; one is the son of a king and the other the daughter of a business magnate. The two rebel against this decision taken by their parents, and run away from home only to run into each other without knowing who the other is. “I know it sounds like a Bollywood story but the play is much more than what it seems like. It is a commentary on life and how automated it has become,” Rajiv offers. “It’s about power and control and there is a lot of absurdity too. Büchner was influential in the sense that his words were simple but very poetic.”
“Like all our other plays, this one too is multilingual. Besides English, we have six other languages including Nepali in How to Skin a Giraffe,” he continues. That’s because once a visual structure for the play was arrived at, the actors in the play wrote all their lines themselves.
Venue: Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Concert Hall, Harrington Road, Chetpet
Date: August 10, 7.30 p.m.
How difficult or easy was it to write your own script with Büchner’s influences as opposed to your original plan of performing an adaptation?
We realised right at the beginning that an adaptation would not be easy and decided to take the essence of his play and do something fresh with it. We also borrowed certain sequences from the adaptation (by Rashmi Ruth Devadasan) because we thought it would work. There is a lot more material on certain characters in the original than there are about others. So we had to work on those things too. It was a risky but far more satisfying affair than anything we had planned.
There are two musicians in your play…
Music has always been a part of our plays. In Perch’s last effort Miss Meena, the actors created music. In How to Skin a Giraffe we have two musicians. Vedanth Bharadwaj is a professional, while the other, Anushka Meenakshi, has travelled all over India and has been involved in the making of a film about work music called Uramili. She was also keen on working on the music of this play. Before we started rehearsals in June, we had a workshop for our actors about movement and body, and our musicians too took part in it. Usually in plays, musicians come in towards the end of rehearsals. We didn’t want that. The entire play has about six songs and they were all created by the actors along with the musicians.
Why did you decide to have your actors write their own lines?
All the plays I work on are collaborative efforts. I don’t say, ‘I have vision and actors should just listen to me or that I use them to achieve my vision.’ Instead, we all work together in creating something. Once we arrived at the visual structure of the play and the sequence of the scenes, the actors themselves came up with the lines they would speak. I am also particular about not forcing the actors in my plays to speak only in English – for some of them it is too much artifice and isn’t smooth. So there’s a smattering of the actors’ mother tongues too throughout the play.
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.
Price: Rs.600, Rs.350 and Rs.200. Season tickets at Rs. 3000 & Rs. 1750
Tickets will also be available at The Hindu Office - Mount Road, Color Plus - Apex Plaza, Landmark - Apex Plaza & Landmark - Spencer Plaza.
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