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Director's cut -- JOHANNES VON MATUSCHKA

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A German director, a play translated from German into English and a Chennai cast: do you think the Project InDeAct ended up being merely an interesting experiment or did it ultimately promote genuine cultural exchange?

I asked myself the same question. Was the project just about friendship — knowing someone from another country because we worked together — or more. I concluded that it did end up being a genuine exchange.

After all, we are not here to just set up a company. Or to take a play from page one to 60 and throw it on stage. We are here to explore how we deal with the acceleration of our lives, and then display it theatrically. To discuss what it is to be lost, and translate that onto the stage.

We draw on two cultures to do that. I get to reflect my own generation in Germany to the same generation in a different country.

Through rehearsals and workshops, you and your cast have altered playwright Falk Richter’s play, working your way draft after draft. How does giving every actor the freedom to alter his/her character work, without weakening the original script?

It’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Only when we lay it down do we see how many pieces we have got, and how much further we can go.

I give actors freedom because the magic of theatre is the fact that the actor is free to choose who he wants to be, and how he wants to play his character. To find his own path. Giving them this freedom should give the script more layers. If it changes the story, then it’s a weak script to begin with.

The reason I chose Falk Richter’s play is because it’s a strong story, with many layers to explore.

“Electronic City” is clearly a work of experimental theatre. The idea of a play that tackles abstract issues tends to intimidate most audiences. Do you think experimental theatre can and should be as accessible as popular theatre?

The ‘abstract’ is not really abstract. With this play we get a hold of the mental state of each character, making it far more concrete than some very defined three act plays. We’re hoping to take the audience on a journey, with the characters.

The world is built on experiments. The very concept of theatre ensures that it’s always an experiment. Here, we play with the fourth wall (the one that separates the actors from the audience). It’s a somewhat magical thing in that you can put it up every second, and you can tear it down every second. It’s a way to involve the audience, to promote a feeling of exchangeability: you can be anyone of those characters.

SHONALI MUTHALALY

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