Theatre

‘Quicksand’ review: One argument, many crises

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New Delhi-based The Tadpole Repertory’s Quicksand is a theatrical exploration of the ugly, multi-layered chaos that is social media

The stage is set. We sit in the amphitheatre-like performance space in Adishakti, Puducherry where the play Quicksand, produced by New Delhi-based The Tadpole Repertory, is about to unfold. There is a mood of discomfort in the air. Unlike a conventional set-up, the audience is not left obscure in the dark. A mild yellow lights falls on us. We shift uncomfortably in our seats. It is a feeling of nakedness of being “out there”, very similar to the feeling of leaving a controversial post on our social media newsfeed.

It was not surprising that the play handled that very subject: a tiff that escalated to shaming and ostracisation of the other on an unimaginable scale, with social media as the arena for the fight.

The first scene of the play, directed and scripted by Neel Chaudhuri, begins with an altercation in the airport between a man and a woman. It is followed up with different scenes, fragments in each of their personal and political lives, that change because of their trial by social media. They lose control over their own narratives. The story journeys on its own, snowballing into different versions when the opinion makers on social media get involved. What was most interesting was that throughout, the audience is never told what the issue between the two is. Director Chaudhuri says the play was inspired from a famous case, where there was an altercation between a college girl and a man at a public place in New Delhi and what she had posted about.

“It went viral; started off being heavy on the man. He lost his job and was arrested. But, at some point, it swivelled around, when some one came up saying the woman was not speaking the truth. And, people started shaming her.” The whole issue was interesting because it became something about class, gender and cultural backgrounds, he adds.

You could feel many aspects — the commotion of the digital age, the philosophical conundrums of living in the time of post-truth and the danger of a one-sided story — being engaged through an interesting non-linear narrative and smart scene transitions. The airport sequences smoothly shift to a pub scene, where the man has a melt-down with his colleagues, then to a very sensitively handled one where the woman breaks down in front of a potential date. The stranger seems to express a liking for her. But, she is anxious that he might be aware of the controversy she is embroiled in. But, she is relieved when she knows he doesn’t.

The emotionally intense scene between the man and his girl friend, who distances herself away from him, was moving and shifted our gaze to the other side, for a change.

Chaudhuri’s preoccupation with seeing layers of an issue in all its nuances offers us a Rashomon-like fare. The amount of research he must have done of similar cases is quite evident. The actors, too, seem to be immersed in the graveness of their situation. They have portrayed their characters with an intensity that is quite hard to achieve while working in a half realistic, half abstract storyline like this.

Quicksand comes relevant at a time when both in the world of virtual space and reality, we are jumping into extremes, eager to become opinion holders in the online space, where it involves little listening and more noise.

The play was showcased at the Remembering Veenapani 2018 theatre festival by Adishakti.

They will also stage the play in Bengaluru at the Jagriti theatre, Varthur Main Road on February 23 and 24 at 8 pm and on February 25 at 3 pm and 6.30 pm. For tickets, visit bookmyshow.com.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2020 7:20:30 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/one-argument-many-crises/article22797226.ece

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