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Hard-hitting and hilarious

The preview of "Python Hyss...teria" proved that Evam has kept its promise, says ELIZABETH ROY. Catch them at the Sivagami Pethachi Auditorium from Jan. 14 to 18.

Evam gives the audience at Taj Connemara a taste of "Python Hyss...teria". — Pic. by T. A. Hafeez.

`MONTY PYTHON' immediately brings to mind a group of young men in the UK, who starting in the mid-Sixties, and having cut their teeth on Oxbridge satire wrote and performed a series of comedy sketches. The group came to be acknowledged as the `Beatles of the comedy', impacted a whole generation of comedy writers and performers that followed "Saturday Night Live", "The Simpsons", "South Park" ... included.

They wedged themselves into history with the groundbreaking BBC TV show, "Monty Python's Flying Circus" (1969-74) and the several movies and books by and about them.

The Python sketches were fresh and anarchic and took everything to extremes. The unorthodox comedy created bizarre transitions from one sketch to another, built itself on absurd premises and merged silliness with intellectual concepts. The sketches were surreal in style and character-based situation comedies with strong storylines. They drew their humour from reversal of situations and unexpected perceptions and by simply trying to understand another worldview. They approached sets with scant regard. If there were sets they were usually left half-built. They made a signature out of leaving costume department tags on outfits. Sketches were often abandoned in mid-stream. And, by God they were funny!

"Python Hyss...teria", to be presented by Evam at the Sivagami Pettachi Auditorium from January 14 to 18 (7.30 p.m.), is an hour and half show made up of 16 Pythonesque sketches.

The event was launched last week at a preview (with eight of the sketches) at Pasha, at The Park, and a day after that at a Rotary gathering at the Taj Coromandel.

The cramped space between the bar and the designer seating, meant to assist in straight-backed drinking, was used very well. Little yellow and white stuffed pythons wound around pillars and bar stools, peered at the invitees.

Half a dozen chairs, a table of sorts and some stuffed birds stood in for sets and props.

Lighting design made its mark. Music was well chosen and swingy and had the sets change crew doing their choreographed dance-and-change-the-sets acts between sketches.

The costumes were irreverent, delightful and added to the points that "Python Hysss...teria" was making. And again, Evam has kept its promise. The show promises to be very professionally put together, well rehearsed and with every detail worked out. They seem to have become more comfortable with their Chennai audience. There is a definite sign of connection and rapport.

The core group of Evam actors, Karthik Kumar, Sunil Vishnu and Jimmy, has spanned out to include some of Chennai's better known players like Karthik Srinivasan and Manoj Nair while also opening doors to newcomers like Amrita Ramkumar and Ajai Titus.

Though Evam has been collectively credited for direction, the cast acknowledges the input from Karthik Kumar. The show grew out of in-depth and freewheeling discussions and arguments which helped the cast to interpret the script and delineate the spaces within performances for improvisation and change.

The group showed their control over timing, the crucial factor in comedy. They also showed their training in body control and physical language. Their sense of restraint was evident. In comedy it is so easy to go overboard and degenerate into slapstick, and they did not. The bottom line was that they were funny!

Eight short, hard-hitting, over the top, in your face sketches ranging from a hilarious and irreverent discussion between the Pope and Michelangelo trying to work out who should or should not be in the painting of the Last Supper and why not, to an agitated customer seeking redress from a pet shop that had in his opinion sold him a stone dead bird...

The core group of actors from Evam had done a production derived from `Monty Python', even while studying at MICA in Ahmedabad. The fact that they managed to fill the auditorium every evening for three days and had hoards of young folk enjoy the show, gave them the confidence to try it in Chennai. Judging from the response at Pasha, the less young will also be just as helplessly lost in laughter.

In time Evam hopes to attract more actors and build a repertoire of plays and shows, and make it a serious business venture, offering actors more than just opportunities to perform and the audience a promise never to compromise on quality and professionalism.

Tickets will cost Rs. 200/100 and Rs. 50 for students, and are available at Landmark, Marrybrown, Fruitshop (Greams Road), Odyssey, Amethyst, Fab India and Shilpi.

For details, ring 98410 45448.

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