Four artistes, four themes, four languages and four stories, all narrated simultaneously, transform feelings into a universal experience, writes Prabalika M. Borah

Music, art and dance, like human feelings, are universal and need no language to be understood. Whether a man cries in Mandarin or Malayalam, the angst he/she goes through is well understood. Similarly a smile or a happy face needs no translation or explanation. It is with precisely such concepts that theatre personalities from four countries staged Transformations, a Traditions and Editions Theatre Circus presentation in the city.

The four performers from Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong and India, all graduates of the Intercultural Theatre Institute in Singapore, decided to weave folk tales and personal experiences into a single stage performance.

With minimum use of props and words, all four artistes enacted their own story on stage, simultaneously. “The theatrical presentation has four stories of unique voices coming together to create a sensory experience,” explains Mohamed Kunju Naushad, the Indian artiste. When asked about how the group avoids confusing the audience during the performance, Naushad says, “That’s the magic of a good script. This is a one-of-its-kind play where the artiste brings out a lot emotion with melancholic strains all by themselves.”

The stories which the performers narrated individually speak about, and relate deeply to, the theme of transformation. Finally the extracted elements of each project go on to interact with each other. The actors say that Transformations spells out infinite possibilities — of a hope for better change in oneself and also one’s relationship to his/her socio political environment.

“The idea behind Transformations is derived from the fact that each performer-creator creates a piece individually and these separate pieces are then all digested by the Dramaturge. The aim is not to merge the four scripts into one unified narrative but to extract and explore images, feelings and poetic resonances,” explains Naushad.

For the presentation, Naushad twisted a folk tale revolving around a deity, the Nagamandali, to narrate how a Naga Goddess takes a break and enters the world of humans. When she finds herself in the same plight as humans, the goddess understands their condition.”

While Naushad depicted an Indian folk tale, Leung Hiu Tuen Melissa from Hong Kong narrated a real life story of a girl who was lost in a Tsunami and then found her way back home after seven years. Miyuki Kamimura from Japan played a bird struggling to be accepted for its looks. “Take us for example; being from a South Asian country we look different from the people in Hyderabad. I am the odd man but I have to be accepted here in my appearance,” adds Miyuki.

“The trick here lies in how the four stories connect and send out a single message which is very universal,” explains Peter Sau the artiste from Singapore, who also relies on a real life experience to narrate another emotion.

Enthralling performance

Melissa rolls into the stage like a ball, her knees clasped to her chest. She rises to find herself in a strange world, of different smells and different sights. She looks around but can’t find her familiar environs. She is enveloped by fear and longs to find the comfort of her home and the people who loved her selflessly. The white stage at NIFT glows under different neon lights and as Melissa rolls in, Miyuki (enacting the role of Yotaka) emits a strange cry. It wanders from place to place sometimes angry, sometimes sad and at times dejected. Yotaka tries its best to join better looking birds, but finds itself alone. Miyuki’s high pitched cry and voice modulation not only depict Yotaka’s feelings well but are also heart rending.

Miyuki goes from one corner of the stage to the other in slow calculated steps depicting stops at various places. While this is happening, Peter is perched on to a tall tower, looking everywhere to see if there is any escape from the light house where he is stationed. He has no friends, he misses home and wants to be united with family but his duty towards his country binds him to the small island which is smaller than a soccer field. The skill with which each actor enacts his orher part without confusing the audience bring the different emotions accurately . The trick in tying in all the individual to pieces into one whole narrative lay in the timing — of movements, sounds and dialogues — of each performer.