A Report on the Hindi Theatre Workshop
From the open space of the English theatre workshop it was quite a change to attend the Hindi theatre workshop in the closed space of the Padatik theatre hall. Though small, it was not cramped. It was rather comfortable. It being an actual theatre space, I got to sit in one of the audience seats while the young actors ‘performed’ on the stage. I waste so much time on understanding settings because, even in a workshop, it is important to understand the kind of relationship formed between the performers and the onlookers.
By the time I saw it, the play was practically ready. Dealing with child trafficking, illegal detentions, broken families and government neglect, it was treading deep waters. This alone could make or break a play, and, as I began to get a hold of things, I was curious to see where it was headed. I glanced around, and I liked the look of the props: dolls and puppets, a cord to mark the stage boundary, some small buckets.
The play opened with one of the actors playing the violin, an introductory tune which the main performance could carry forward. The performance was very theatrical right from the beginning. The idea of making the actors speak ‘through’ the puppets was very effective in demonstrating how the voices of those they were representing are actually ignored by ‘authority’. Like dolls, these sections of society are rendered speechless. This idea was a brilliant one, and definitely one which worked. The workshop conductor was a thorough professional, strict but not imposing, eager to urge her young wards to put up the best show they possibly could. This kind of handling allowed the actors their enjoyment, but also ensured that they took their job seriously. However, there were not any inputs from the participants themselves, so it was quite clear who the ‘captain’ was. Then again, I did not think that this would have too much of a bearing on the performance itself, as long as the actors were having fun and knew what they were doing. And it seemed that they did. They made little jokes during the course of their run- through, though seldom missing their cues. (If they did, it was met with silent but stern disapproval from their conductor.)
While I was impressed by the professional ‘show’, I was concerned that the stating of statistics (and there were quite a few) would run the risk of coming across as too preachy. So would the direct questions and appeals that seemed to be a significant part of the play. Too much verbalization takes away the storytelling aspect of theatre. But perhaps this was a necessary element of the play’s attempt at communicating a message. After the first run-through, the participants got a small break, after which their director wanted to have another run-through and work on their monologues. It was the monologues, I should add, which grabbed the most attention. The violin too, used sparingly but effectively, enhanced the tone of the particular dialogues it accompanied. As I left, I knew by the look of things that the play would be ready, rehearsed and polished for the final performance(s), and that no mistakes would be made. And, with my limited ability to speak and comprehend Hindi, I had been able to follow what was going on and grasp the play’s message! This itself was proof of the effectiveness of the performance.
— A report by Shamoni Sarkar