Taking abuse head-on

Two actors move around a minimalistic stage, and dim lights fall on their bodies as they swiftly exchange short, staccato dialogues. For the next hour and a half, the play bewilders and moves the audience.

Given by playwright Shivam Sharma is an incredibly personal work that deals with the difficult theme of abuse. “ Given deals with what happens when children are subjected to things they don’t understand. And questions the concept of safe spaces,” says Sharma.

In the theatre circuit since 2012, Sharma grew concerned about the paucity of queer work and founded the theatre company, Somethings Simple. “I made a conscious decision to streamline my work to address LGBTQ issues, it was the need of the hour.”

Sharma spent the past two years writing plays and Writer’s Bloc, a playwriting residency founded by Rage Theatre in association with The Royal Court Theatre, gave him all the support and guidance he needed. Given is the product of the fourth edition of the residency, which is held every three years. The year-long programme chooses 14 writers and helps them hone their scripts under the guidance of mentors. Seven of the 14 writers get a chance to showcase their work at the Writer’s Bloc theatre festival.

While abuse is a topic that the mainstream media has been exploring for years, the dialogue often stops at the incident. Rarely do people discuss the repercussions of abuse and how it affects the victim. Given explores the aftermath, where a survivor grapples with shame and doubt, trying to come to terms with being abused.

Initially, Sharma was hesitant about telling such a personal story. The fact that a play could expose the writer’s motivations and thoughts to the audience was a terrifying thought. Moreover, dissecting abuse takes a lot of courage as a writer’s emotions gives the art its spirit, but the play’s structure can’t be tampered with.

But Sharma was ready to tackle the subject head-on. “Sometimes, you feel like you’re ready to tell the story,” he says about the cathartic nature of the play.

Given is brought to life by director Padma Damodaran with a cast that includes popular screen and theatre actor Shishir Sharma, Trimala Adhikari, best known for her role in the film Haraamkhor, and lead actors Roshan Mathew and Roshan Mathews.

“I trust Padma completely because our visions for the play were so aligned,” Sharma says about handing over creative control to Damodaran. “They have used certain devices to get the point across and the set created by Vivek Jadhav is completely naturalistic.”

The play opened to good reviews at Prithvi Theatre and NCPA as a part of Writer’s Bloc and is now being showcased at the more intimate The Cuckoo Club in Bandra West.

Given will be staged at The Cuckoo Club on July 15th at 6.30 p.m. and 8.30 p.m. Tickets are priced at Rs. 300. Visit

The author is a freelance writer

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2021 11:06:41 AM |

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