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    Theatre Nisha’s N Balakrishnan explores what sexual moralities and familiar rhymes have in common

    ursery rhymes are not always what they seem: Ring-a Ring-a Roses hides darker references to the bubonic plague, while Georgie Porgie talks about sexual preferences. The same can be said of relationships, especially ones of a sexual nature—and this forms the crux of Theatre Nisha’s latest production, Ring-a Ring-a Roses. Based on the 1897 play La Ronde by Arthur Schnitzler, an Austrian dramatist, it deals with the concept of sexual morality in society. “It may have been written over a century ago, but it resonates strongly (more so, perhaps) today. In fact, when (actor-scriptwriter) Meera Sitaraman and I sat down to write the script, we realised we just didn’t run out of topics, ideas or characters,” begins director V Balakrishnan, explaining, “What piqued my interest was the concept of how we approach sexuality and morality, how we respond post a sexual encounter and the amount of hypocrisy we encounter.”
    Holding up a mirror
    While loosely based on the original, Balakrishnan has adapted it to suit a modern-day Chennai. The one-and-a-half hour play comprises 10 scenes with two characters each. “Each scene takes one character from the previous and introduces another, so that by the end, everyone, in a way, is connected to one another, ” he says. Expect to see people we can all identify with: from a junior artiste to a lawyer and a young theatre director to a blind girl who sells snacks in Pondy bazaar. While the director insists that there is no message, he says there is a strong sharing of what we see today—the moral policing, the kind of education being imparted in schools and even the societal reinforcements that picks and chooses from our mythology and culture, burying whatever does not fit. “The actors hold up a mirror to themselves and their relationships, and, in the process, they might hold one up to the audience as well,” he says.
    Rhyme and rhythm
    Keeping with Theatre Nisha’s philosophy of not letting sets clutter the narrative, things have been kept stark. “We’ve chosen a nursery rhyme for each scene, adding our own little twists to bring out the inherent meaning. Rhymes have been the carriers of so many dark secrets and we will explore what they were really written for. Sandeep John (who is also acting in the play) will sing them and that will be the only music we’ll have,” concludes Balakrishnan, who plans to focus on ensemble plays this year and hopes to stage the play outside the city soon.
    At Alliance Francaise, on July 10-12, at 7 pm (3 pm on weekends). Rs 150. Details: eventjini.com

    —Surya Praphulla Kumar

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