Theatre - Fest

Wordplay and love

A lifetime of experiences Rajit Kapur and Shernaz Patel in the play  

A friendship that lasts 50 years… Despite its saccharine title, Love Letters, the play by AR Gurney makes you question what love really entails. The internationally acclaimed stage hit is coming to The Hindu Theatre Fest in Coimbatore to tell the poignant story about Andy Ladd III, a serious, down-to-earth attorney and Melissa Gardner, a lively, free-spirited artist.

The childhood friends, played by Rajit Kapur and Shernaz Patel, share a lifetime of experiences through a voluminous series of letters and notes written from the age of six to 65. Their correspondence follows a bitter-sweet path of boarding schools, marriage, children, divorce and missed opportunities. As the production completes over 300 performances since it opened in 1993, we speak to director Rahul daCunha on what makes the theme of letters, ever-lasting. Edited excerpts

Wordplay and love

Has the audience reaction to the concept of writing letters to someone changed in these years of instant messages?

I think an email is still not something exchanged by two people in romance because a letter is more personal. An email can be seen by other people. It is electronic; whereas a letter is something you have written in your own personal handwriting on the paper you’ve carefully chosen. A letter requires you to put a stamp, go to the post office ... so there’s work involved behind it. An email goes from one computer to another, as opposed to from my hand to your home.

Do you think the two characters find soul mates in each other only because they didn’t have to actually live with each other and face the friction that comes with it?

If you ask any couple who has been in a long-distance relationship, they always talk about what a difference not facing the person every day makes... I feel the new 21st century relationships are better off with a bit more distance. So you can think of your partner more fondly. The way these two characters write to each other and the feelings they express are based on how they imagine the other person is. The one time that they do meet and have a relationship; it is too short-lived.

Director Rahul daCunha

Director Rahul daCunha  

The play seems to suggest that opposites attract. Do you believe in that?

No, I don’t believe in clichés. What does opposites mean? If one person is submissive and one person is aggressive, how is that a relationship? It doesn’t work.

This play has been done by many productions over the years. So was there a challenge in making your version stand out?

Every other production did the play by having the cast sit on two chairs and read because that was the writer’s instruction as well. He didn’t want the lines to be learnt but to be read out from the letters. There was no movement, the characters didn’t change costumes, no music, sets ... nothing. The challenge that the three of us felt was in changing this tradition. How do you show the passage of 30-40 years between two characters?

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  • What: Love Letters will be staged on August 18, at Corporation Kalaiarangam, TV Samy Road (West) RS Puram from 7.30 pm
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And what did you use to show the passage of time?

We had to think of a technique or a gimmick and we came up with the idea of coloured cubes. These cubes are rearranged by the actors themselves through the two hours to showcase where they are. That’s how we change locations and years. When they are young and in school, that block is a school desk. When Rajat’s character joins the Navy, that school desk becomes the ship. It’s constantly evolving.

You mentioned that you used music as well… In what form?

The play begins in the 1950s, and ends in early 2000s. There are 15 scenes and, in each transition, I use songs that were famous in that time period. So in the early scenes we use Frank Sinatra; when we go from 1960 to19 65, I use a Beatles song; from 1965 to 1975, Simon Garfunkel; from 1990 to 1995, Phil Collins, and so on. In the play, we never directly talk about which year it is, so the music gives the audience a sense of the era.

Tumhari Amrita was based on the same script, and released around the same time that you started this play. Have you ever thought of Indianising the play?

That thought occurred to me much later. The script is so perfect as it is, we didn’t think of changing it in 1993. But if I were doing it today, I would Indianise the characters. I would keep their personalities the same, but I would play with their communities (Punjabi and Parsi) and set the play in India.

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Printable version | Aug 4, 2021 4:23:53 AM |

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