A Temporary Matter was a feel good play with a mix a of humour and sentiments. The narration was good enough for a layman to understand what the actors were trying to communicate. So was the lighting. The only glitch was an empty stage for a brief while. The Purification Hunt was one of the finest of the Four Plays. The main character stole the show. The Flatulist had all the makings of a fine English play, especially the accent. Ganga at Rishikesh, a mind-blowing play by Stray Factory scored with grand set and lighting and humour.
Local talent to the fore
What promised to be a collage of four of the best efforts from the finest theatre houses in Chennai, started with a disappointing A Temporary Matter which failed to connect the audience with the estranged couple. Save the climax, the actors failed to shine through, helped by the slow pace. The Purification Hunt packed a powerhouse of a performance by V. Balakrishnan as the interrogator, whose profanity and ridicule of the tribals underscored the helplessness of the latter and laid raw, the context of the Naxalite movement. The Flatulist was an obtuse though entirely engaging effort (with very creditable special effects!) in highlighting the stranglehold of the agents in the entertainment industry who do not allow the natural flair and talent of artists to blossom. Ganga at Rishikesh was however the toast of the evening with excellent sets, special effects and a hilarious take on the holy Ganga being an assuage for healing carnal desires rather than souls!
Not much to offer
In an evening reserved for theatre groups from Chennai three out of four performances failed to prove their mettle. The only play which brightened the evening was Theatre Nisha’s The Purification Hunt. The mélange of Hindi slang and an off-handed interrogation managed to keep the audience steadfastly focused on the Maoist conflict in Central India. The opening play A Temporary Matter by Madras Players through its insipid monologues and conversations during dark dinners failed even temporarily convince the audience of its subject. The post-interval performances, which brought to mind amateurish college plays, could not rise above shallow acting, weak scripts, poor comedy and beautiful mise-en-scene. While the The Flatulist was set far out in the West, and acting meant impersonation of the American clichés; Ganga at Rishikesh was so diluted in its story and performance that it was flippant.
Mahima A Jain
A Temporary Matter was close to reality and was riveting in parts. Ganga at Rishikesh was a carnival replete with action. Stray Factory succeeded in establishing a rapport with the audience with its witty dialogues interspersed with Tamil. The Flatulist reflected the state of theatre and tried to gauge how receptive the audience is to ideas and new art? When Ayn Rand was quoted by Tathagath in The Purification Hunt, it was time for applause. The man was Atlas, carrying the weight of the play skillfully on his shoulders. Hats off to the playwright and director, V. Balakrishnan for the strong script and Theatre Nisha’s performance was Chennai’s filter kaapi — strong and lingering.
Among the four plays performed, Balakrishnan’s The Purification Hunt tugged at our heartstrings by conveying the plight of the oppressed. It was an enjoyable play. The Madras Players’ A Temporary Matter dealt more on a psychological level the problems a young married couple faces. The actors did well despite the time constraint. Michael Muthu’s The Flatulist was an entertainer that was about an up and coming artist. Wonderful set and dynamic props were used to bring out the well-timed humour.
Ganga at Rishikesh presented a beautiful cinematic backdrop of the Tamil Adi month festivity at a roadside temple but here it was near the bank of Ganga, a sadhu in penance, frequently responding to the worldly affairs around him. His comments about the reality of maya and the endless living sprit, like that of Ganga were the catchy messages in the multi-layered narration.
In the name of realism!
When four plays are crammed into an evening, there’s a huge expectation from the audience in the sense that at least there will be a variety in the presentations. Perhaps because of this, the evening was not well-spent. None of the plays showed any outstanding qualities either in concept or presentation except that of the officer who narrated the background in The Purification Hunt. His monologue was exemplary and did not exhibit any weariness. If farting is considered uncivil in public, how does it become presentable to an audience? In the name of realism, how can unacceptable words and actions gain respectability?
Four Plays was an eclectic selection of pieces that ran the gamut from gut-wrenchingly political to the rib-ticklingly ribald. A Temporary Matter was a quiet but powerful play examining the dynamics of a marriage teetering on the abyss of despair. Matters got bleaker still with The Purification Hunt, an unflinching look at the horrors of government that was carried by the tour de force performance of its riveting protagonist. Its dark humour and colourful language belied its serious moral underpinnings. Post-break however, levity was on the ascendant with Michael Muthu’s The Flatulist — a surprisingly classy and well-written play given that most of its hilarity stemmed from borborygmus manoeuvrings — scatological humour at its finest. The final play Ganga at Rishikesh was the pièce de résistance of the evening, offering the capacity crowd a dash of home-brewed comedy, amply spiced with local dialogue, a haunting soundtrack and a levitating sadhu.
T. P. Kurian
Something for everyone
A Temporary Matter showcased the effect of a still-born on the parents-that-never-were and The Purification Hunt brought with it a tense monologue-esque take on the crossfire that innocent and well-meaning people find themselves caught in the Naxalite-inhabited areas of Chattisgarh.
The Flatulist was a quirky look at how artists come to view their artistry and how maniacal they can get about wanting to create their own identities. The evening’s climax was perhaps the best of the lot with Ganga at Rishikesh intertwining narratives with brilliant production work and excellently funny dialogues to weave a clever story that flowed along with the Ganga. There was something for those with a serious bent of mind and for those who looked for comic relief.
The actors did a good job but the storyline failed to capture the interest of the viewers in A Temporary Matter while The Purification Hunt was powerful and well-performed. Post-interval, The Flatulist reduced us to laughter and Ganga at Rishikesh, saved for the last, was the best.