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Updated: July 27, 2010 17:31 IST

Poetry in motion

SRAVASTI DATTA
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A scene from 'Doorway' performed by Jyoti Dogra. Photo: S. Mahinsha
The Hindu
A scene from 'Doorway' performed by Jyoti Dogra. Photo: S. Mahinsha

Actor Jyoti Dogra's performance, ‘The Doorway’, was physical theatre at its best. Every stretch of her body, flash of her eyes and tremor of her voice captivated the audience. One hour may seem a long time to sit still in one place in these times of low attention spans, but watching her perform made me forget about time altogether.

My mind rested and my body took over when I watched Jyoti Dogra performing solo in “The Doorway” in Ranga Shankara last week.

Every stretch of her body, flash of her eyes and tremor of her voice captivated the audience. One hour may seem a long time to sit still in one place in these times of low attention spans, but watching Dogra perform made me forget about time altogether.

Through her performance, Jyoti effortlessly plays with space and time by expanding and contracting it.

Part autobiographical, part inspired by folk stories, fairy tales and personal experiences, “The Doorway” is a disjointed narrative with very few dialogues. Experiencing the world through the body was the main focus of the performance.

Inspired by Grotowoski's physical theatre, Dogra decided to try her hand at it. “I have been devising this piece alone over many months.

“Initially, when rehearsing, I used to perform in front of a chair imagining it to be a member of the audience. But when that chair was occupied by a human being, I started performing differently,” says Jyoti.

The audience weren't just passive spectators they were integral to the performance. “I didn't want the audience to just judge my performance. I wanted them to participate.”

Jyoti wanted to “push the audience towards realism”. “What matters for the performance is the gaze of the audience. There were some parts in which I was enacting scenes of lovemaking and I looked directly into the eyes of a girl who was sitting right in front, she kept lowering her eyes, afraid to meet mine.

“Her reaction was completely different from another audience member who was a man. He met my eyes unflinchingly.”

Once in a while, I surveyed the audience to see how they reacted — some sat at the edge of their seats their chin cupped in the fold of their palm while others arched their backs and sat straight, still.

In one part, Dogra walked up to a member of the audience, stretched out her palms and said innocently, “see I caught a butterfly”, I smiled involuntary.

“I've had shows where women have hugged and kissed me when I approached them,” Jyoti says smiling. Jyoti believes the body has memory inherent within it, thus, it reacts to situations involuntarily.

Her powerful performance stands to prove this true though in many parts one felt the frequent performances had definitely tired her out.

The lights added brilliantly to the performance. Creative, adept and alert are three apt words to describe the skill of the lightsmen.


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