This is a guest post by Swati Singh – a big fan of theatre, movies, songs, soaps, funny videos…basically an entertainment junkie!
I am a huge fan of movies, dance, drama, plays and anything of the sort. Some could say I just like to sit and watch other people do all the work. I say I am a sucker for good storytelling. What I have always been intrigued about, though, is what happens backstage and all the work that goes into creating a play. I mean, I was involved with the Drama Society at school but that isn’t what the real thing is like, now is it? So when my friend invited me to the rehearsal run of Tahatto’s upcoming play, Romeo and Juliet – no strings attached, my happiness knew no bounds! Okay, maybe that’s exaggerating but I did jump at the idea and agreed to it before he could change his mind and, hence, began my little journey to the world of rehearsals, chaos, criticisms, self-analysis and production woes that precedes the act we see on stage.
What I found was a group of dedicated people working hard to learn their lines, get their blocking and comic timing right, and slip in the occasional thought-provoking bits amidst a myriad of emotions. Luckily enough, I got to see the whole play during the rehearsals (well, almost). The practice ended right before the climax and left me wanting for more and you know it’s worth the buck when you are left with that feeling.
The play is about puppets breaking free and presenting the classic romantic tragedy in a manner they would like to. However, not for a second must you think that it is anywhere close to what you would have read. The story is an interesting rendition of the classic. There’s something quite liberating about the twists and perspectives you can weave into a story by changing the parameters that originally ruled it. We now have a set of puppets who have suddenly found the freedom to play out their own rendition. Will they choose to do what they have always done or will they choose to play it out differently? Will their real self be reflected in their characters? Will they agree with their characters’ choices or will they question them? Will they still identify with the Elizabethan times or will the modern affect them? The possibilities are endless.
As with every rehearsal, this one ended (again, sadly, right before the climax) with a session of gruesome slaughter. I witnessed deliberations between the actors, the director and every member of the team who had anything to say and yes, they were nice enough to ask for my opinion too. Were the lines right? What about the timing? The cues? How should the stage be set? Should a scene be re-written? Should the scene even be there? For me, someone on the outside, I could see “Romeo and Juliet” evolve right in front of me.
It wasn’t all work and no play though. Taking every criticism in their stride, the group gorged on numerous veg puffs and butter-laden freshly baked biscuits enjoying a much-needed break. While trying to practice their action sequences (true, there is actual physical violence!), and they have the bruises to prove that they practiced, they spilled many a cups of tea. No sir, not your average masala tea, but Rose Tea (which some thought tasted like Rooh-afza), Jasmine Tea, Lemon Tea, White Tea (whatever that is!) and Earl Grey. So besides learning the nuances of theatre, I now have the knowledge of hoards of different flavors of tea. And while we are at it, I also know, how an Ethiopian goat-herder’s energized flock led to the discovery of coffee. It was a fulfilling experience witnessing such a talented group in action and getting a glimpse of their idiosyncrasies. Just to let you in on a few:
Chris: loves learning lines and he has quite a task in this play. He can play a mean tune on the guitar and seems to know everyone that we know. He may just be the missing link in evolution.
Anshul: believes he is a very talented joke teller. Unfortunately he is the only one who believes that.
Shashank: The new villain in a telly soap, Shashank is now a recognizable face, something he loves and will never accept. 😛
Rijul: The youngest of the lot, he always asks a hundred questions before getting into a scene, most of which have nothing to do with anything.
Kelly: is the tea connoisseur of the group. So if you see a certain curly-haired pretty lass on a wild rampage through the tea racks of a store, you know who that is!
I am peeved about not knowing what happens in the end, as you must already have felt it, what with my mentioning it over a hundred times! They’ve definitely got me hooked. The rehearsal has got me thinking and without giving out the spoilers, here’s an exercise I’d suggest you do before you go for “Romeo and Juliet”; make a list of questions you’d ask if you had the chance to paint the story in your color and have a fun time matching them with what happens on the stage.
“Romeo and Juliet – no strings attached’ is traveling to Chennai and Coimbatore for the prestigious Hindu MetroPlus Theatre Festival this August following which they come back to namma Rangashankara on 27th and 28th of August. I know I’ll be there!
And you should too. Trust me on this – no strings attached.