A young boy from Nepal, snatched away from his home in the Himalayas, now lives in a big slum in India. He is all alone in the world, in his small, stifling room, confined and miserable.
He tries, day after day, to find in his body a door that opens to Nature, which he longs for. VAST, a dance theatre performance which will come to Chennai this weekend, narrates the boy’s longing and his trials to attain freedom through his body.
The piece is directed and choreographed by Auroville-based Philippe Pelen. Philippe created Theatre Talipot in the Reunion Island in an effort to present a body of work relatable to the region. “This island has had to face colonialism, slavery, and engagism [slavery of over 1,00,000 people from India, China and Madagascar in the Reunion Island], which is why all of our work is based on freedom of the body, memories of the body and identity. Our stories always explore how to be ourselves despite alienation and pressure,” Philippe says.
VAST is a prolongation of this work, set in the context of India. “The performance looks at how the human body — even with its ruptures, oppressions, and confinements — still possesses the nostalgia of Nature, and vastness.”
While facing these trials, the boy has an encounter with a strange character that will help him on his journey. “This is the character of Hanuman, who is heroic, wise, and full of humour,” says Philippe.
For a project like this, finding a contemporary dancer who carries memories of The Himalayas, seemed necessary. This quest led Philippe and Thierry Moucazambo (who plays the character of Hanuman) to Gopal Dalami, an Indian contemporary dancer of Nepalese origin. The artiste, according to Philippe, brought a personal flavour to the narrative.
It took the team six months to conceptualise the performance.
Why physical theatre? “We talk about the five elements in the body. Our hero in the show is in exile, and hence totally disconnected from Nature. He is now looking for a path to the Himalayas, to Nature. The other hero Hanuman will help him to reconnect with Nature, to its vastness, and awakens the memories of mountains and spring water, smells of the trees and the brilliance of snow.”
VAST will be performed on November 16 at 6 pm in Alliance Francaise of Madras, Nungambakkam. Entry is free.