Theatre

Press the panic button

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Director Sujay Saple hopes his play Agent Provocateur will not allow audiences to sit back and enjoy the performance

How does theatre convey the anxiety of a time? Through text, slogans, symbolism or props. Agent Provocateur presented by Shapeshift is a production that uses none of these. Instead, the production relies on movement to convey the panic.

According to director Sujay Saple, he is more invested in imaginative experiences, “visual movement, metaphor association and contemporary dances. Even while we work, we treat theatre as a laboratory of movements to arrive at a new language, specific to the journey of this production.”

The piece premièred last September at Prithvi Theatre in Mumbai. It was also performed at the EARS international arts conference in Mumbai. It is a devised performance, created through a collaboration between a contemporary dancer, a theatre performer and a drummer. “We believe dance is already there in the performer’s body. But, when I use my actor who is trained in Bharatanatyam, I try to focus on the core of the art form, which is a sense of line and form,” says Saple. As far as the theme is concerned, Saple says it is an anxious response to the times we are living in. “Be it the growing fascist tendencies in politics or right wing indoctrination, the beast is not hidden any more. All around the world, there is a right wing resurgence. It is blatant now, almost like it is their right to wear this ideology on their sleeve. White supremacy theories are happily coming out in the open. I do not have a problem with people believing in an ideology, but when that becomes systemic and censorial, how do we continue making art work?” Various ideas such as censorship, lynching and indoctrination of the body have been fleshed out in the production. “Each is approached with a different kind of a treatment, though, such as the text, movement, pure dance. It is chosen depending on what form suits which idea. There is a lot of improvising. The whole idea is to give audiences the feel of a sense of threat, as opposed to just preaching about it.”

The production, Saple hopes, will not let the audience sit back and enjoy the performance. “But, we attempt to stir them towards awareness. We have not divided it like a regular play with conventional entries and exits. I treat the drum as a performer as well. It is a source of a piece of protest in itself. The sounds created are not melodious, but fast beats to explore anarchy and stir the audience.”

(The performance will be staged on February 16, 7.30 pm at Koothu-P-Pattarai, Sri Ayyappa Nagar, Chennai. And on February 18, 7 pm at Adishakti, Edayanchavadi Road, near Good Earth, Auroville Post, Puducherry.)

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 2:29:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/press-the-panic-button/article22761977.ece

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