Consumerism and climate change are characters in Visual Respiration’s Under Pressure

Divided into three sections — the Earth, Humans and Plastic — the narrative uses a collage of ideas   | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Spread across the stage is a plastic sheet. On it is a collage of used and unused bags and labels screaming the names of brands that we, as consumers, eagerly lap up.

It is a rather clever prop that fuses the concept of consumerism with the world’s malignant obsession with plastic. Minutes later, an amorphous shape takes form underneath this sheet — a human being who rises up to ask questions.

Under Pressure, a performance by Bengaluru-based theatre outfit Visual Respiration, which was recently performed in Chennai, attempts to ask ‘uncomfortable’ questions about climate change and consumerism.

Movement, disjointed narratives and poetry, all play their part in this production that took shape after months of careful research.

“A few years ago my partner and I came across a podcast by Amitav Ghosh where he implores the creative community — artistes, poets, journalists, writers and so on — to discuss the environment in their work since no one else is,” says Aruna Ganesh Ram, director. She began to question where exactly the ‘environment’ was in her work.

Aruna’s earlier work spanned topics of gender, self-expression and people through immersive theatre; but not the environment.

This, she says, was essentially the genesis of Under Pressure. “I am researching and reading about the environment more actively,” she says.

The personal stories and perspectives that the actors and collaborators — Aditya Garg, Asha Ponikiewska and Deepika Chauhan — brought to the piece lend it a cohesive and relatable tone.

Says Aruna sharing a laugh with her actors, “Initially, I think they were a little annoyed about the amount of reading that had to be done. But connecting with environmentalists, reading theories, and making conversation was important. Unsurprisingly, we were not getting singular perspectives.”

Before long, the team recognised how layered and complex the climate change conversation is. “For instance, I remember how Dr Nandita Krishna of CP Ramaswamy Iyer Trust told me that ‘there is no such thing as sustainability’. According to her, anything that we do leads to a change in the environment and hence is not sustainable. You have to look at not just the action but the life cycle of it.”

The theatre director in her was excited and wanted to put it all out there, but this was not a viable option. “How do we, as artistes respond to this material was the question,” says Aruna.

Initially, they would sit together and pick a trigger — it could be an article, a poem, a photograph and so on — and individually respond to each through various media like music, for instance.

Divided into three sections — the Earth, Humans and Plastic — the narrative uses a collage of ideas. That is how movement, physical theatre, poetry and character-based acting became participants in the process. “We even did a residency in Kolar where we embodied trees.”

A lot of sequencing, and trial and error later, Under Pressure gained a cohesive structure.

Contact improvisation — exploring one’s body in relationship with others — formed a significant part. For the section which discusses consumerism, the artistes devised gestures that could be repeated again and again, which were performed with masks on. Almost like a chorus, it presented a powerful visual.

Though the performance could be tightened, its ‘in-your-face’ demeanour portrayed through abstract physicality, speaks a powerful language.

Our code of editorial values

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 1:12:06 PM |

Next Story