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The purpose of being

Gudipoodi Srihari
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Theatre ‘The Chairs’ left the audience with a thought, urging them to question the larger purpose of life. Gudipoodi Srihari

Absurdly goodA scene from the play ‘Chairs.’
Absurdly goodA scene from the play ‘Chairs.’

Last weekend, theatre lovers in the city were in for a treat with the plays staged as part of the fourth edition of the Samahaara Theatre Festival. One of the plays staged during this festival, The Chairs, was by Rammohan Holagundi’s Nishumbita theatre group. The Chairs have Hyderabad audience a taste of ‘absurd theatre’, a genre synonymous with Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot , written by Eugene Lonesco. For the most part, The Chairs focussed on two characters — an elderly couple — and a third character, an orator, appears much later. The play leaves the audience guessing about its theme, set in a post-apocalyptic world where this old couple is the last of surviving humanity surrounded by nothing else but ocean. Rammohan and his wife Soumya played the elderly couple with no character names given to them.

To kill time, this marooned couple begins reminiscing their old times. They imagine people arriving at their place, occupying chairs and conversing with them. The couple engages a professional orator (Sanjeev), a visible third character, who emerges out of the audience in the hall to convey the old man’s thoughts. There was also non-existent king as if seated on a high-raised empty chair.

The dialogue centres round fictional elements. The elderly man thinks of a message as to what could have saved the world and tries to convey this message to his non-existent audience. Their presence in empty chairs, made of bamboo and spread across the stage, symbolises the audience, creating a make-believe world. This gives place for some mime as if they were talking to his invisible audience, taking them back by 100 years when they were all alive, before this deluge.

The narration is scathingly satirical, focusing on the idea that human beings have some purpose in their existence. It is a dreamy picture, leaving imaginary audience on the stage and real life audience in the theatre pondering over whether this old man’s dreams will ever come true, wondering whether our lives have a greater purpose. The narrative element raises issue of self realisation that humans will live and die absolutely for nothing, thus projecting the element of absurdity. ‘As you begin your life things come easily like the death too’, says the play. The empty chairs mean emptiness in our lives. At the end of the play, this elderly couple too jumps out of their window into the ocean.

In short, the play explains the implying meaning of life as was envisaged by the old man. The guests supposedly mean everyone in the world. Being the last two people on the planet, the couple reminisces cryptically about their own lives. It is in many ways satirical. By the end of the play, we’re forced to ask ourselves whether our lives have a greater purpose. Like many absurdist plays, The Chairs manages to find some humour in the very idea that we live and die for no reason. Once you begin your life, things may come easily like the death too was its essence. These apparently vacant chairs possibly symbolise emptiness of our lives.

The beauty lay in suggestive stage setting using chessboard-like backdrop. The musical support enhanced the play’s impact. All the three artistes stuck to the thematic element in delineation of roles. It was a thought provoking production and a change from the routine.


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