On Stage: Fish fry, Ambassador car, audience; the new sense and sensibility of theatre

Jino Joseph's play 'Mathi' uses the sensory element of smell. Photo | Special arrangement

Imitation of Death, presented by Emil Madhavi, incorporates new technology and focuses on creating experiences and memories for the audience. The play aims to bridge the gap between the artist and the audience. The presentation of this play is limited to only 15 people at a time. The most intriguing part is that a single performance of the play takes place at eighteen different locations. This drama is a perfect example of how the concept of stage is changing drastically in drama.

"From thinking about how one can turn the moments and experiences, touches, sounds, and smells that one experiences very personally into a form of presentation. I realize that there is a possibility of presentation even in the thin layer of experiences of people. As a part of these thoughts, the presentation called Imitation of Death was created so that the concept and experience of death can be shared with the audience. The language or dialogue is not an important factor here in this drama. The design and planning of the play create experiences and memories for the audience. Each viewer is forced to play the art as the special treatment in this drama," Emil Madhavi said.

The stage for Deepan Sivaraman's drama 'Khasakhinte Ithihasam' was set in an arena theatre concept. Arena theatres are large-scale spaces that have a central stage arena with the audience seated around it. Photo: Special arrangement

He used the 'Performance Museum' concept in the drama. A performance Museum is a concept similar to how one experiences an art museum. Here in drama, the audience can see the characters and immerse themselves in the concept. In such dramas, a special bond develops between the artist and the audience which would be more personal. Apart from telling a story the audience themselves evolve as part of the story in a performance museum.

The performance, conceptualised by Abheesh Sasidharan is based on the short story, 'Branthu', written by noted Malayalam writer C Ayyappan. In this drama, the stage is an ambassador car and the number of audience restricted to four. Four strangers get in an ambassador car and the driver takes them through a narrow road to the parking area that is closed. Nothing can be seen in the parking area other than the four surrounding walls. After a pin-drop silence driver's phone rings. It's a video call and the actor starts performing. Travellers eventually become the audience.

"Normally in theatre, experience is through two senses, that is eye and the ear. But here we tried to give a sensory experience like sensing by touch through the maddening ride. The audience start interacting with each other, " Abheesh Sasidharan told Onmanorama. Sasidharan's movement-based performance 'Floating Bodies' is a play, inspired by a 2017 photograph of Rohingya refugees crossing the Naf River.

Imitation of Death, presented by Emil Madhavi, incorporates new technology and focuses on creating experiences and memories for the audience. Photo | Special arrangement

A refugee boy who doesn't know swimming enters with a yellow plastic container to an unknown place after crossing the river. Here the water and land are the environment in the play. The play is happening in water so the stage is created like a pool and sometimes the original pool is also converted as the stage. Materials, water, space, sound, time, and photography create an atmosphere where the audience can experience the situations and experiences of refugees and migrants.

Trends in theatre architecture and scenography also have great changes in the new era. In all of his plays, Jino Joseph, a trendsetter and creator of many plays used different approaches to scenography through his plays. Creating a moving live stage experience is his play's advantage. In his drama 'Nona' the stage is crafted as a slope where actors move fast through the slope. Each stage creates a moving experience.

Jino Joseph's play 'Mathi' uses the sensory element of smell. Throughout the drama, an artist is frying sardine. The delicious smell fills the stage and audience. The smell creates a craving for the audience to have fish fry.

Jino Joseph, in his play 'Kaani', introduced face lights on each artist which the artists can operate by themselves. Deepan Sivaraman's, drama, 'Khasakhinte Ithihasam' has the stage set up in an arena theatre concept. Arena theatres are large-scale spaces that have a central stage with the audience on all sides. The audience sits on the stage like they are also actors in the play. The artist touches and gives food to the audience in the play. The audience feel that they are also acting in the play.

"The rehearsal of the play 'Khasakhinte Ithihasam', was also an experience of learning where the artists were trained in real locations. There are scenes in the play, where the actor delivers the dialogues from the pool while climbing the tree ," said Rajeevan Vellur, actor in the play.

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