Maya Krishna Rao's act opening the Prakriti Foundation's New Festival was an uneasy mix of dance and stand up comedy

Maya Krishna Rao is a gutsy woman. Give her that. She opened the Prakriti Foundation's annual national contemporary arts festival, The Park's New Festival Edition V, by flouncing on and off stage in a series of clingy outfits and brash wigs, sassily flaunting wrinkles, dimples and jiggles.

Her act, titled the ‘The Non Stop Car-Food-Clothes-Feel-Good-Show' was designed to be a rollercoaster ride through the urban citizen's idiosyncrasies. If only it was as funny as it was fearless.

Uncharted territory

Rao acts, sings, raps, dances and writes her own scripts. She's one of India's few woman stand-up comedians, and deserves respect for venturing into uncharted territory. However, given the material she was working with at her recent show at Museum Theatre it's evidently high time she took scriptwriters on board.

The ambitious production featured Rao playing a series of familiar Indian roles, from traditional old women, heads modestly covered with their sari pallus, to kitty party aunties bursting out of their unforgiving designer outfits. Eventually, the challenge of switching accents as often as her wigs proved to be too much of a strain for Rao. So while the Punjabi socialite was spot on, her Bengali and Malayalee characters got as muddled as a Mojito. Not an appropriate metaphor? If you had sat through Rao's exhausting Nigella-Lawson-meets-Mick-Jagger's-Miracle-Worker-meets-Melodrama act with an unsuspecting fish, you wouldn't be complaining. The scene was so bewildering that an entire row of people snuck out of the theatre. It wasn't the fish's fault.

A few laughs

A couple of individual pieces did draw a few laughs such as her take on Mamata Banerjee, but on the whole the show was didactic, somewhat self-indulgent and an unsteady mix of either overly-obvious or ambiguous metaphors.

Dance theatre or stand-up comedy? It seemed as if the performance could not make up its mind and the result was a show with long pauses for frequent costume changes, a random mish-mash of stories, and a lack of energy and focus.

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