Losing the plot


An excellent play was marred by listless performances and shoddy coordination

LOST CAUSE The excellent plot was let down by unconvincing execution

Dream Scope in collaboration with The Forum presented The Afghan Women recently. The play, directed by Puja Goyal, was written by William Mastrosimone in the aftermath of the World Trade Centre bombing. It is therefore a play of the `present’ plight of most in Afghanistan.

The changes that emerge from war mean different things to different people. All the characters struggle with misplaced identity. The loss of the burkha for the women, the struggle of the men to hold on to their tribe, and the loss of `belonging’ for a new generation of men who can easily follow the path of hegemony are included in the plot.

Plots, counter plots

A warlord, Hamood (Terrence), seeks protection from the new government in an orphanage even as he plots to overthrow it.

The Afghanistan-born, America-raised physician Malalai (Sabreen Baker) sees its futility, and convinces three local women Wajma (Yamini), Gulalai (Gangamma) and Nahid (Ashika Devi) and Hamood’s son Omar (Nabeel), schooled in the ways of war, to overthrow him.

At the core of the plot stands the naked truth of all wars, that a conflicted country probably is the best judge of the right solution.

Going beyond

Mastrosimone’s work transcends from being a play just about women to the lives of the men in the tribes, and of people at large facing war and death every day.

The lines are witty, profoundly light, and develop the characters well, and move between modes of despair and hope rather interestingly.

Which was why it was disappointing to see it performed without conviction and just as publicity vehicle to promote a shopping fest. The audience was made to wait for 45 minutes so that the chief guest could arrive and then again during the interval for nearly 25 minutes for introductions.

The performance that followed both times was listless.

The three women (Yamini, Gangamma and Ashika) merely spoke their lines to static moves. The main actors were either standing or sitting. The music was abrupt and sparse. What really jarred was the use of lapel mikes that had problems. What about actors projecting their voices? Even internationally, in musicals (from where the idea was probably taken), where lapel mikes are used, the actors project their voices. In this case, some actors were inaudible even a few feet away from the stage. There also seemed to be lack of coordination between the technical support group and the actors, evident in the constant sounding of `checks’ in the lapel mikes and the long gaps between the scene changes (nearly five to seven minutes) when the actors were heard conversing backstage!

The death of Hamood was comical and diluted the essence of the scene where the women take over, and claim their power.

There is clear potential Baker, Nabeel and Terrence who showed some interesting work. The intention of the performance, to donate the proceeds to International Orphan Care for the Afghan children, which is supported by the playwright, was laudable.

DEEPTHY SHEKHAR

© Copyright 2000 – 2006 The Hindu

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