Witness pure storytelling with The Phoenix Players’ One to One
Mumbai-based The Phoenix Players theatre group has always been known for interpreting the works of literary legends. This weekend, it will take up two works of American writer Edgar Allan Poe, and one by Indian social activist and writer Mahashweta Devi, in One to One. Poe’s The Raven is about a talking raven’s mysterious visit to a distraught student, who is grieving the loss of his love, and his The Tell-Tale Heart revolves around a murder plot. Devi’s Panchakanya revisits the Mahabharata from a the point of view of tribal women who were left behind after the Kurukshetra war.
Listen, and learn
While the title, One to One, does indicate that the production involves solo performances, its meaning runs deeper. Salim Ghouse, who co-founded the group with his wife Anita Salim in1984, and has designed and directed this play, explains, “All the three pieces are like indirect confessions. These are personal emotions the writers had felt, and reflected upon. And that’s how art is, and should be.” In fact, Ghouse, who has been involved in theatre for about five decades, tells us “theatre is essentially about listening”. He continues, “Theatre is not meant to be visual. A lot of people misunderstand it. If you see our great theater of the past, such as Yakshagana, all the text, or words, are in incorporated in the music. Amid all the entertainment are subliminal messages, involving history, memories, and experiences.”
Theatre is the purest form of storytelling, and also one of the best forms of communication, and Ghouse feels that somewhere we are losing this age-old practice. That’s why his team is constantly trying to shine light on the great fund of literature that the world has. “While Anita has been doing storytelling workshops with children, we thought adults must also experience the power of literature. For artistes like us, the joy is in sharing these works,” he says.
An actor’s world
Ghouse also points out that theatre is not about lavish sets, and had never been. He explains, “The best theatre in the world, from time immemorial, has relied on an actor’s ability. Nobody comes to see the sets. If the actor is not good with his body movements, emotions, or voice then everything falls flat, because the audience tries to see themselves in the actor. The audience might not have read Poe or Mahashweta Devi, or they might not have read anything at all before coming to the theatre. Therefore, the actor has to speak on behalf of the writer, and that happens at a subliminal level.”
In One to One, the onus of storytelling is on his wife Anita, one the leading performers of English theatre in the country, his 20-year-old son Aaryama, and his student KC Shankar. While Anita will bring the words of Mahashweta Devi to life, Shankar will enact Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, and Aaryama, who’s been working with his parents’ theatre group for two years, will be doing The Raven.
April 15. Tickets (`200) available at the venue. At Ranga Shankara, JP Nagar. 7.30 pm.
— Barkha Kumari