Playing with numbers

A scene from the play ‘A Disappearing Number’  

Examine this folks! Numbers are infinite, right? And there could be any number of series of numbers, each series proceeding towards infinity. On the other hand, between any two numbers too, there are any number of fractional numbers, hiding and raring to surface. For example, if you depart from the number 2 and proceed towards the number 3 through fractions — 2.99, 2.99, 2.999 … and so on — you will probably reach there, oh, but never.

These guys were trying to somehow meld into a two-hour theatrical show the rarefied world of pure mathematics with the vulnerabilities of daily human existence.

The celebrated British theatre company Complicite' led by Simon McBurney is known for its very distinct approach to creating plays. Whether beginning from a proper script or not, they do extraordinary research into everything concerning the subject, and then in a truly workshop atmosphere involving all the actors, designers and technicians they construct the performance bit by bit, over many months. By the end of it, each of the participants is an expert on everything related to the play!

The play has two very ingeniously interlaced narrative threads : the story of Ruth, a middle aged British woman maths lecturer (deeply in love with Ramanujan's work and his mathematical spirit) in a difficult relationship with Al Cooper, a globe-trotting American ‘futures' trader of Indian origin; and the now hundred year old celebrated story of the astounding genius of Ramanujan, a poor Brahmin clerk at Madras Port Trust being recognised by G.H. Hardy, a great British mathematician, and what followed thereafter…

For people in Hyderabad of course, it was a rare high tech experience – multiple quick shifting video screens, lightning fast scene changes, rolling walls and backdrops, numbers and equations everywhere, haunting music and sound and the fluidity of it all. For those who missed it there could be a live broadcast available on some television channel on October 14, from the stage of the Plymouth Theatre Royal in the UK.

The cast: Firdous Bamji (Al Cooper), Saskia Reeves (Ruth Minnen), David Annen (G.H. Hardy), Paul Bhattacharjee (Aninda Rao, a physicist), Shane Shambu (Ramanujan), Divya Kasturi and Chetna Pandya.

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Printable version | Jul 28, 2021 8:59:49 PM |

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