Aruna Ganesh Ram’s Visual Respirations was a blend of traditional games and historical narratives

After shows in London and Chennai, Visual Respirations opened in Bangalore at Atta Galatta.

A devised performance, the 80-minute piece is non-linear; loosely structured and relies heavily on movement and gesture to convey its theme.

Inspired by traditional games and the interplay between the past and the present, Aruna Ganesh Ram designed and directed a production that relies heavily on mythological and historical narratives to appeal to a contemporary audience. And appeal it did. From the three small children in the front row to the elderly couple opposite them, each and every one in the audience was involved in the performance from start to finish.

That the production depended on audience involvement was an added advantage.

Apart from staging a type of manoeuvre to keep the story going, the performers dedicated one part of the performance to improvisational theatre, relying on audience participation to decide the outcome of a lagori match.

Popular and niche

Several other games, both popular and niche, found mention as well. From kabaddi to hopscotch, marbles and chaturanga, the production was an eye opener.

The performance however, wasn’t merely an encyclopaedic recitation of time-honoured games; they were incorporated into the very fabric of the show.

The dice, for example, with its six faces, governed much of the rhythm of the performer’s movements. And little-known stories of the mythological ties with the games were enacted.

Kabaddi, for one, has seven players in reference to the seven layers of the chakravyuha that Abhimanyu was trapped in.

While the play began in media res with the actors playing marbles, it was scenes such as the news report one, wherein the performers spoke to the audience by talking about them, which stood out.

Due credit goes to Supraja Narayanaswamy and Ujwal Nair, whose coordination in movement and in speech is to be watched to be believed. As proclaimed, it truly was a performance duet, so in sync were the two actors.

They weaved stories around Chanakya’s teachings, re-enacted a game of snakes and ladders and generally moved about nimbly and ably, all the while engaging in dialogue with one another and with the audience, ironically resulting from Aruna’s encounter with an app, talks of a much feted about simpler time, but it also shows one how, as much as things have changed, they have really remained the same.

Early versions of monopoly and golf show one as much.

And while, in the question and answer session that followed, Aruna spoke of how the digital versus analogue intercession got her thinking, by translating games into movement, she has shown how they can exist in tandem: by evolving.