While the staging of “Gul-Gulee Circus” by Yavanika at a night shelter was well-intentioned and well-executed, the message might have been lost on an audience with more pressing needs.
The city's destitute who huddle together on a cold and dingy floor to spend the night in a government-run shelter near Old Delhi Railway Station were in for a surprise, as students of a college performed a play for them in their room last week. The play they watched was “Gul-Gulee Circus”, which brought a little joy to their gloomy world.
Jointly organised by Yavanika (the dramatics club of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya College), Nehru Memorial Museum Library and Mandala, The Magic Circle, “Gul-Gulee Circus” has been conceived in the course of a theatre workshop organised by Yavanika under the direction of Lokesh Jain, who is known for his experimental theatrical work, solo performances and as an artiste who works with street children.
In his productions he raises social issues like the devastation caused to ecology by powerful nations and the danger of nuclear war, creating awareness to combat the evil prevailing in society.
The play is presented on a bare floor against the backdrop of three draperies in different colours. On the right and left sides of the acting space a makeshift backstage area is formed using curtains. Performers raise issues in the form of compositions. The entire play is non-verbal. Chhavi beautifully choreographs some of the compositions.
Beginning with the evolution of human society, the production projects images that capture violence caused in the name of religion and beliefs. Highlighting ecological depredation, we watch images of scarcity of water. It also seeks to make the audience aware about a faulty education system that overburdens a child with books.
In one of the sequences, the danger of nuclear weapons to humanity is presented. There are forces that plunder the wealth of weaker countries. All these images move to a stage where the forces of violence, evil and plunder gain menacing power, the draperies come down, exposing the face of a man, dreadful with wide open eyes, underlining the need of the hour to combat these forces with a view to maintain a healthy and harmonious civil society.
Jain has paid special attention to the designing of costumes. Broadly, performers are divided into two categories. A group is in the costumes of clowns and another is in black outfits. A solitary female image is in white with her hair spread over her shoulders. As the performers interact, the sequences they form are visually attractive. The beats of musical instruments like dhol, jumbe, manjira and flute accompany the body movements.
The production is remarkable for subtlety and intricacy. Some of the imageries tend to be abstract, open to different interpretations. The clowns and some objects, like the box that keeps on changing hands, have metaphorical meaning.
This kind of production is likely to be received well by a Mandi House audience. But the night shelter-seekers are likely to find little in it to relate to their lives. This reminds one of a character in Gorky's “Lower Depths” who comments sarcastically, “Who wants them — honour and conscience? You can't wear honour and conscience on your feet in place of boots. It's only those in power who can afford to have honour and conscience.”
The audience of “Gul-Gulee Circus” in the night shelter were in torn clothes and shoes, some barefoot. For them, issues like global warming and nuclear proliferation have little meaning. Socially committed theatre worker that he is, Jain should produce a special play for these night shelter-seekers that would amuse them and inspire a change in their lives.