17 poems, 10 artistes, theatre and contemporary dance—it’s a cocktail that promises to be heady
We love words, but verse often scare us. So a theatrical performance of poetry can be a little daunting. But director Sunil Shanbag, of Mumbai-based Tamaasha Theatre, says Blank Page—their interpretation of contemporary poetry through theatre, music and movement—is their most popular act to tour with, and that audiences respond with “a great amount of feeling”. With the 55-minute performance coming down to Adishakti in Pondicherry this Monday, he encourages us to put it to the test.
“I’ve always been interested in poetry—reading books and listening to my poet friends. I’ve also been using poetry in training workshops as it is very interesting to see actors try to engage with verse and find meaning,” says the 59-year-old, adding that these workshops gave him the idea to create the performance. “To begin with, my colleague, Sapan Saran, and I spent three months going back to all the poems we’ve enjoyed and then reading some more. Soon themes started suggesting themselves and it evolved organically,” he says.
Dealing with four broad themes—on the act of writing, women defining themselves through verse, conflicted relationships and resistance poetry—17 poems, in English, Marathi, Hindi and Kashmiri, will be performed in all. “We use certain devices, like having a translation echo the main piece, to ensure the audience understands,” says Shanbag, explaining that a musician, playing the keyboard and a variety of percussion, will accompany the nine actors. “We wanted to perform this in alternative spaces and keep it quite everyday, so there are no costumes or sets,” he adds. With over 30 performances under their belt, their next stop is Bengaluru, with plans to come to Chennai some time in the future.
August 15, at 7 pm. Details: 0413 2622287
—Surya Praphulla Kumar