Theatre

Many lives, one story

There are no floodlights or spotlights here. A lone chandelier in the centre of the room and a couple of regular ceiling lights illuminate the small intimate performance space where Visual Respiration’s I* is in progress. There is no stage, either: the high chair balanced on a pile of wooden blocks, the heap of musical props, the four performers, and the spectators, sitting or standing, around all of this, almost segue into each other. The play opens to markedly different looking people occupying the four corners of the room, each engrossed in their own specific tasks (which I assume is a metaphor for life, for thoughts and for being itself). At one end of the room, a balancing act is in session.

A clown (Vedanth Ramesh) juggles a broom on his palm, while a man wracked by loneliness and despair (Vijay Krishna) performs a perfect arm-balance in front of a half-empty bottle of alcohol, mumbling under his breath as he does.

The other end of the room is occupied by two women: one giggles, rants and gossips into a telephone (Laxmi Priya) while the other hums softly and fusses over a green potted plant (Deepthi Bhaskar). Through the performers’ violent, almost primeval bodily movement, sounds both melodious and jarring, and fragmented monologue in various languages, you discover stories and feelings that are both theirs and your own. Devised over three months, the constantly-evolving piece brings in the performer’s own personal experiences, scenarios and narratives to create a mixed collage of emotions and worlds into a small space at Wandering Artist where the performance was held. There is even a point where civilisation fades away and there is almost a regression (or perhaps it is progression of sorts?) to the primal man: the hunter-gatherer is unencumbered by the complexities of being; his only instinct is for survival.

The performance is also a detailed treatise of the human body, a celebration of muscle, sinew, skin and flesh. From Krishna’s walking Urdhva Dhanurasana and Bhaskar’s languorous, music-punctuated movements to the conjoint huddle of bodies when all four performers come together, towards the end of the play, the production is beautifully choreographed. Sometimes you understand, sometimes you don’t but even oblivion is no bar to the palpable emotions the performance induces.

You can sense joy, sorrow and despair, see manipulation and power play, recognise people you know and love in the performers. One word of caution: if linear storytelling and entertainment is what a theatre experience is about for you, this isn’t for you. This is not a sit-back-and-relax sort of performance. But it cannot help but leave you, at some visceral, unnameable level, deeply touched.

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 3:15:46 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/i-theatre-of-many-kinds/article19586027.ece

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