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    Michael Muthu adapts an Italian play with a theme that is dark, strange and fun

    The title of The Madras Players’ upcoming play, Six Characters in Search of an Author, is a dead giveaway of the play’s story. Nothing poetic about it and no surprises there, it really is about six characters from an unfinished work who feel shortchanged by their author. So they turn to another creator to bring them to life and give them their due. In the same no fuss manner of the title, there’s no romanticising the stage for the audience in the 90-minute play. Four minimalist and functional sets will change right in front of them, demystifying the ‘creation of the illusion of theatre’. This is because the story unfurls as a play with a play.

    Layered narrative

    But once you’ve skimmed the surface, the play is a showcase of different perspectives and varied levels of interaction between characters. The redoubtable Michael Muthu, the man helming the production, explains it well. “The production delves into the multiple layers of human interactions. At one level, there are characters who have emerged out of an author’s imagination. Then there are the actors who are real people and are enacting these characters. Finally, there’s a director who is a real person having to interact with these fictional characters and the real actors,” he explains. “When I read it, I liked it a lot because it was very different from what I’d done earlier. It is dark and strange and nice,” adds Muthu, who has over 80 directorial works to his credit. The six characters include a couple, their only child and three children the mother has from another relationship. The crux of the play, according to its director, is the relationships between the characters.

    Italian connect

    The play is based on an adaptation of a 1921 Italian work by Luigi Pirandello. In its time, it was noted for its meta-theatrical theme and the experimental, non-linear story progression. “We’ve only removed references to the location from the original and are keeping the play as close to the original as possible,” Muthu explains. As for the story’s unfolding style, he says it is jumbled, and starts with the ending and then moves towards the starting point.
    The popular Italian work is not new to the theatre scene in the city. In the 60s, The Madras Players had themselves attempted an adaptation. More recently, a decade ago, a Tamil version of the play was staged by the theatre group, Koothu-P-Pattarai. The cast of the upcoming play includes Muthu himself, who plays the father, besides Namita Krishnamurthy, Sarvesh Sridhar, Shaan Katari Libby, Thomas Philip and Tehzeeb Katari.

    February 26-28, at Museum Theatre, from 7 pm. Rs 200-rS 500. Details: in.bookmyshow.com

    —Sharadha Narayanan

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