Theatre

A method in the chaos

DRAMATIC EFFECT The actors switched roles, took on new ones, blurring lines between man and woman  

If the Ronald Schimmelpfennig written, David Tushingham-translated, Ramin Gray-directed play “The Golden Dragon” was staged to packed houses at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, it was no different at our very own Jagriti Theatre.

“The Golden Dragon” drew the audience like a magnet, quite a feat considering that it required the audience to play acrobatics, literally, with their minds.

“When you watch a play, you put yourself in the characters' position. In this play, the actors explicitly put themselves in different roles,” explains Ramin Gray. Hence, the actors of the Actors Touring Company (ATC) — overreach themselves as it were — to slip in and out, almost at the snap of the fingers, into races and genders other than their own. The cast is all-white for a reason, Ramin explains: “The script specifically requires the actors not to play themselves. If we had Chinese or Indian actors, then the purpose of the play would have been lost.” They do so convincingly because the audience, so engrossed in the dynamic flow of the play, forgets who is man, woman, British, Vietnamese or Chinese. Ramin informs that he has changed nothing in the script. Directing the play may have been a challenge to ensure the seamless flow of the different narratives, but the effective team work of the actors helped tide over this. It shows. Wonderfully. For even among the many chaotic moments, the snappy shift from one scene to another and the quick exchange of roles, you can relate deeply to the various issues the playwright addresses — the attempt by migrants to be accepted, the inhabitants' need to render exotic ethnic cultures and the notion of home, belonging and nostalgia.

A theatrical fable, “The Golden Dragon” is set in a local Thai/Chinese/Vietnamese takeaway, in which the Chinese chef, known simply as ‘boy', suffers suddenly from an excruciating toothache. His colleagues try their best to relieve the boy of his distress, but the hectic life at the restaurant continues relentlessly, with orders flying thick and fast, as the boy has no money and papers, so consulting a doctor is out of question.

Interwoven within the plot are other smaller stories of couples and the chef's sister who is a sex worker, each with its own gut-wrenching endings. The play — through fun and bizarre moments — deals with larger socio-economic issues of modern life and migration, traversing different places, from East Asia to the UK.

The sets are minimal, the props basic, it is only the beautiful script that enables the audience to picture the different settings and characters. Hence, the play unfolds like a film on stage. Ramin adds that the use of story-telling and theatrical techniques have been employed to achieve this objective. The words ‘pause' and ‘short pause' are interspersed throughout the dialogues to “break the magic of the script”.

Ann Firbank — energetic and youthful at 79 — stands out for her stage presence. She says that moving in and out of different characters wasn't a challenge for the actors. “One's consciousness is full of these things. As actors, we have a library within us so we call upon it whenever our performance so demands,” she says.

The other cast members perform as remarkably. The tooth-extracting scene, for example, is particularly gruesome, and meant to be so, but well performed. The success of “The Golden Dragon” is evident from the responses it has received, particularly from the city's noted theatre personalities. “It is a fantastic production that gives a lot of food for thought,” says Ashish Chandra Sen. Raj Ayyar says: “I really enjoyed ‘The Golden Dragon', especially the performances of Ann Firbank and the masterful Ciaran Kellgren, who recently wowed British audiences with his portrayal of Peter Pan. The play never descends to the clichéd.”

“The Golden Dragon” will be staged till January 29 at Jagriti Theatre. Till Saturday, there are shows at 8 p.m. and on Sunday there are two shows at 3 p.m. and 6.30 p.m. Tickets are priced Rs. 300. For details call 41242879.


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Printable version | Nov 30, 2021 11:09:42 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/A-method-in-the-chaos/article13380676.ece

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