K. Santhosh

Thrissur: The Second International Theatre Festival of Kerala (ITFoK) on Monday invoked the magic of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel, ‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold’. A crowd braved the drizzle to watch ‘Spinal Cord’, the Malayalam adaptation of the novel, directed by Deepan Sivaraman. The play poignantly told the tale of a murder. A young bride is rejected by her husband on their wedding night after he discovers she is not a virgin. Forced to reveal her seducer’s name on returning to her mother’s home, she names the best friend of her brothers. The brothers set out to kill their friend. Conflict kills them, so they tell everyone in the town their plan for revenge.

With major and minor characters plucked from the novel and re-modelled to suit the Malayali context, the play follows an intelligent structure. The novel itself is a curious one with the main plot being revealed five times (once in each of the five chapters). The revelation is fragmented, with information wringed out of a different character each time.

Gopalan’s portrayal of the murdered man’s aged mother was brilliant. The sequences were stylishly choreographed. An analysis of the play cannot avoid an elusive and much misunderstood term: magical realism. In simple terms, it is the domain where the magical and the real collide. The biggest test before the dramatist is to get viewers suspend their notions of reality and goad them to enter the magical. The director achieved it with a seamless marriage of carefully uttered dialogue, visually rich sequences, imaginative lighting, unusual background score and multimedia projection. Use of an intimate non-proscenium theatre setting adds to the experience. The play indeed retains the spirit of Marquez’s novel. Marquez leaves some questions unanswered. Who actually took the young bride’s virginity? Why did she name the best friend of her brothers? About the complexities, Marquez muses, “Fatality makes us invisible.”