A compelling story in Murder in the First is what got theatreperson Kunahan Thampi to direct the play for stage
Written by Dan Gordon, and based on his 1995-film of the same name, Murder in the First is set in 1941, and talks about a young lawyer by the name of Henry who is asked to defend what appears to be a fairly predictable case — to defend Willie, a prisoner at Alcatraz who, after three years in solitary confinement, comes out and murders a fellow inmate.
“I was fascinated by the story. To be honest, I was just looking for a script, and when I came across this one I knew I just had to direct it. It’s only much later that I found out that the story is inspired from a true incident. And I think that added a lot of layers to the whole play, especially when you discover about all the horrors that took place in Alcatraz,” says director Kunahan Thampi. In fact, the first-time director has not moved away from the original script at all. “When the story is this good, you don’t want to do anything to it,” he adds.
An elaborate set, thanks to production house Quiver, creates the perfect environment where the play unfolds. And even though it’s typically a court room drama, “the scenes move from the prison, to the lawyer’s office, and to the court. We wanted our audiences to experience something that was as close to reality,” Thampi adds.
The play has about 14 actors, which the director says can be “quite a task” but on the other hand, he found it amazing to work with such energy. “We have doctors, teachers, and budding actors as part of our cast. The plethora of knowledge that they bring in, our discussions after our rehearsals keep the energy alive,” he says.
Working on this play taught him a thing or two as well. “Very rarely do people make an emotional connection with the work they do. But the relationship between the lawyer and his client made me understand that you have to love what you do to achieve the best out of it,” says Thampi.
Thampi has been part of theatre since school, and even went to Bangalore School of Speech and Drama, and this is his first play as director. “I am petrified! But then again, it’s not fun if you aren’t a little scared!” he signs off.
November 14 (7.30 pm) and November 15 (4.30 pm and 7.30 pm). At Alliance Francaise, Vasanth Nagar. Tickets (Rs.300) on bookmyshow.com
— Priyadarshini Nandy