Theatre

Taking on the dark

The struggle of Aung San Suu Kyi came alive in Prakash Belawadi’s The Lady of Burma

It’s a good time to talk about Aung San Suu Kyi. The Burmese leader, who adopted the principle of ahimsa, is famous for demonstrating the power of endurance to the world. Writer and director Richard Shannon’s inspirational play, The Lady of Burma, first staged in London almost a decade ago, is as relevant today as it was when it was created. Staged at Museum Theatre over the weekend, the production, directed by Prakash Belawadi, attempted to re-tell the story of Aung San Suu Kyi using music and movement.

Dancer and actor Rukmini Vijayakumar’s solo performance chronicled the struggle, perseverance and vision of the protagonist.

Demonstrating how the most striking personality trait of the Noble Peace Prize winner has been her ability to face fear and her courage to confront it, the play opens with a young Suu Kyi attempting to conquer her demons.

She decides to rid herself of her fear of the dark, which she associates with ghosts, by walking around the house in the middle of the night.

And, in a few days, she realises that these demons exist only in her mind. It sets the tone for the play, for that’s the attitude with which the playwright sees Suu Kyi tackling life.

In the production, it is this strength that enables Suu Kyi to withstand the isolation of house arrest.

“Only my body is confined, my mind is wandering,” she says.

Rukmini’s performance was moving, if patchy. The highlight was an especially emotional scene where she learns that her husband Michael, who is all alone in the U.K, has prostrate cancer, and the only way she can connect with him is by playing his favourite tune on the piano.

While Rukmini the dancer did a memorable job, with fluid graceful movements, the actor in her struggled to convey the enormity of emotions.

Imagine seeing Suu Kyi without flowers adorning her hair. The Lady of Burma’s protagonist wore no flowers.

Similarly, the play, though executed with earnestness, felt like there was something missing.

Nevertheless, it was an honest and heartfelt attempt to recreate Suu Kyi’s life and travails.

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 10:28:05 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/taking-on-the-dark/article14975032.ece1

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