Theatre Nisha celebrates 15 years on stage with Seneca’s play about the fallen king, Oedipus
This year, Theatre Nisha marks 15 years on stage. As a celebration of their diversity, the city-based group is moving away from their one-woman acts and premiering an ensemble play today, Seneca’s Oedipus. The myth about the Greek king who is prophesied to kill his father and marry his mother has seen many versions, including the popular one by tragedian Sophocles, but according to director V Balakrishnan, Seneca’s version appealed to him more. “Sophocles’ Oedipus is an arrogant man, confident he will be able to thwart fate. However, Seneca presents him in a more human light—as someone who is stoic and understands his fragility. So his fall in the end has more gravitas,” begins Balakrishnan, who is also essaying the titular role, asserting that Seneca’s version is more dramatic because Oedipus dies on stage.
For his script, he has chosen poet Ted Hughes’ adaptation of the play, which was staged at London’s The Old Vic in 1968 by director Peter Brook. “I’m a fan of Hughes’ work. But I also felt that his version stripped the story of all its obscurities and embellishments, and made it very visceral,” he says. The script also has no punctuations, “allowing the actor to imbibe the words and let it flow as he desires”.
While this is not Balakrishnan’s first time playing the tragic king—he did Sophocles’ version 20 years ago, in Delhi—he believes this time its less about recreating a mythical character and more about portraying the playwright’s vision. The 20-member cast—with names like Sunandha Raghunathan, Sandeep John and Shakthi Ramani—comprise seven main characters, an 11-member chorus, an actor who will interpret the Sphinx through movement and, finally, a character who is not present in the original script. “I’ve introduced Oedipus’ daughter, Antigone, right at the end because, as a non-speaking role, it doesn’t interfere with the play and also because I didn’t want to give the audience closure. I wanted them to know that this story has two sequels, too—Colonus and Antigone,” he says.
Call for variety
While traditionally, Greek plays employ the lute or lyre to give music, Balakrishnan has decided to stick with live singing alone. “There will be four musical renditions,” he says, adding that though he won’t be using any sets, the stage will extend into the audience, incorporating the aisle in the auditorium. Opening as it is on World Theatre Day, we asked him to share his thoughts on the theatre scene in the city. “I don’t see much variety in genres. While once in a way there is something as beautiful as Les Misérables (directed by Amrita Frederick), mostly it’s just comedy. We need more theatre people to watch plays, read plays and realise entertainment is more than
just making people laugh,” he signs off.
Today at 7 pm, and March 28-29 at 3 pm and 7 pm. At Alliance Française. Free entry. Details: 28279803
Surya Praphulla Kumar