Stage set for a 'grim drive'

Driving is an art, they say. But driving in our part of the world is an entirely different proposition. It is a testing ground for your skill, rated on scales of aggression. Reams after reams have been written about this, almost giving the scourge a national flavour.

Take a break and be there when The Living Theatre stages their comeback play, ` The Mobile Grave' at the Fine Arts Society Hall on Saturday. The original play is by Fred Kayondo, a Kenyan playwright. The characters of the play include corrupt policemen, politicians who are above the law, drunken drivers and private transport operators who insist on filling their vehicles beyond capacity.

"When we decided to start performing after a gap of five years, the first thing we did was read the scripts. And then one day, we chanced upon this play and instinctively, we all wanted to stage it. That is how the play happened,'' said Archana Anand, director of the play.

The play could have easily been adapted to a local context, as the play, at every point, will remind you of the developments that unfurl in your immediate neighbourhood. Still, those at The Living Theatre decided on retaining the African flavour of the script. Down to costumes and music.

"We are not out to preach. All that we want is to present a professional work and if the audience can imbibe the message in our production, well and good.''

There is little chance of anyone missing the message, though. The play happens in future, as a sculptor explains the layers of meaning in one of his works to a group of children. The sculpture is about four people who died on a single day in two different accidents. While a drunken driver runs over a man and kills his passenger, a schoolboy and politician get killed when an overloaded `matatu' (the African version for a small transport vehicle) rams onto the latter's car. As the common man suffers, the elite remains unscathed, unperturbed.

"Why is there an urge to jump the red light? If the rule says you should stop at the line, why can't you just do that, instead of trying to go a little further?'' Questions raised by Archana and her team through this play ring true for all who venture out on the streets every day. One reason for the entry for the play being free.

"Initially, we wanted to stage the play at the Durbar Hall grounds. Being the festival season, the entire area will be filled with hawkers and we need much a powerful acoustic system to make ourselves heard above all the din. This was way beyond our financial capacity and hence, we settled for the Fine Arts Hall.''

The play is being staged by The Living Theatre in association with the Rotary Club of Cochin Downtown and Kerala Fine Arts Society.

By Anand Haridas

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