Thursday, March 20, 2003

A piece on playback theatre
Theatre. It reminds you of a stage. A stage where biographies are carved in poetry and prose. Where actors come and pour out their dialogues in the deepest emotion, and you, the audience, gets trapped in the drama that's surreally close to life. The problem usually is, it's someone else's life.

Cut. Next scene, please.

You're taken away to a stage where there is no script. You, the audience, is the script. Your emotions are relived, your passions recreated. You dictate the screenplay, you judge the action. It's all about you: the stage, the sets, the people, the story. This isn't a distant dream. You can see it happen, live, in playback theatre.

The location is probably a rundown school or a small stage. There are no throngs crowding the ticket seller. The actors roam around before the show, building relationships with all and sundry. They seem like normal people, really. It's weird to the extent that you wonder if this is all worth your time. And then they show you.

They begin with fluid sculptures, a phrase that might not get you too far in your english exam. A range of emotions portrayed by five people wearing black t-shirts and jeans, brings to life the audience's views on anything they choose. "How do you like all this cricket mania?", asks the conductor. The crowd responds, "Disgusting, don't we have anything else to do?", "Brilliant, it's the best thing that happened", "Boring", "Heartbreaking", "Tension", "Mandira Bedi". And the conductor simply says, "Let's watch".
With no further ado, no discussion, no sign language and all hysterics, the actors come together to perform a rendition of all the emotions, perplexingly unaware of each other, yet blending together to form a melting pot of all that was said, and some that was not.

You're thinking, they've done this a million times before, they probably have it all chalked out. A few more fluids, and it dawns on you that they haven't. This is spontaneous.This is ad-lib. This is unfettered talent. This, my dears, is Playback Theatre.


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