Theatre

Refreshing look at Ganesha’s tale

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Yuki Ellias gave the story a human and humorous touch

Adolescence is a trying period. More so, if you’re a boy stuck with an elephant’s head. Yuki Ellias imagined and translated this angst into her performance, ‘Elephant in the Room,’ as part of Prakriti Foundation and The Park’s New Festival recently.

Specially curated for the contemporary arts festival, and written by Sneh Sapru, the story follows Master Tusk. We find that the young boy’s head was cut off by his father in a fit of rage, and due to his mother’s pleading, he was given an elephant head as a replacement. Yes, it’s a familiar story. But what’s new and different is that Tusk isn’t quite happy with this arrangement. He lost his own head for no fault of his, and is now stuck with this uncomfortable, too-big-for-his-body appendage. More than physical discomfort, it is his mental anguish that Yuki brings beautifully to the stage.

The scared and scarred little boy runs away from home in an effort to find his own head, which has fallen to earth from his heavenly abode. There, he meets the wily duo, Murg, the hunter, and his partner, Makdi, a squeaky and prissy spider. Tusk gets the better of them, and in his pursuit of his head, runs into trouble. Sage Chitra warns of the danger that Tusk is putting everyone in, including the future of all humankind. It’s in the Aisle of Dawn that Tusk runs into a verbose elephant, Wordsweight, from whom he learns that he has been pursuing what he can never have again. It’s not all serious though. There are comic elements delivered with precise timing throughout the play, and the humour is both physical and comes through the dialogue. A couple of characters, such as Mona, the Indian hyena, who talks to her African counterpart, Spotty (by making a ‘trunk call’ through the forest’s ‘Banyan Line’) had the audience chuckling appreciatively. The superbly choreographed lights, music and sound effects that reflected the mood on stage added to the entire experience.

It’s easy to forget that Yuki is petite: on the stage, she’s tall, lithe and graceful, and gives all eight characters that she plays a life and distinction. Accents, body language, facial expressions, everything changes as she slips easily in and out of the different characters. It’s a pleasure to watch her perform.

And even though the story paid homage to Indian mythology, they spoke of the currently relevant problems, such as privilege, refugees, environmental damage and caste issues. It was entertaining and thought-provoking, and for an entire hour (and for quite some time after) had the audience spellbound.

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 1:28:03 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/Refreshing-look-at-Ganesha%E2%80%99s-tale/article14628537.ece

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