Creative Expression in Theatre

“…..and so I never know who I am,
Nor how many I am or will be.
I’d love to be able to touch a bell
And summon the real me,
Because if I really need myself,
I mustn’t disappear.”
Pablo Neruda in Extravagaria, “We are so many!”

(Spanish translation)

“…y así yo no sé quién soy,
no sé cuántos soy o seremos.
Me gustaría tocar un timbre
y sacar el mí verdadero
porque si yo me necesito
no debo desaparecerme
.”

In his poem “We are Many”, Pablo Neruda explains the trouble of having “too many” personalities embedded in one. What sounds like being a trouble for the poet here, could be an advantage for an actor. An actor in his / her professional life has to live many selves. I read somewhere that an actor is an eternal patient of double identity. That is to say that when an actor acts, he is himself as well as the character that he or she portrays and has to be true to both the selves.

However what happens when an actor, on stage, in front of the live audience has to be more than two personalities. There is such an obvious danger of overlap. Well, two weeks ago I saw an innovative play which demanded a lot from the actors in this regard. The play was “El Lleig” (In English, “The Ugly one”) by German playwright Marius von Mayenburg.

Pep Muñoz, Joan Negrié, Neus Umbert, Oriol Grau

From L to R : Pep Muñoz, Joan Negrié, Neus Umbert, Oriol Grau

The play had a very innovative structure. It didn’t have conventional acts and scenes but it rather had a continuous text format. Dialogues and lighting changed continuously without taking any pause. Except the central character of “The Ugly one”, every other actor actually represented more than one character. This should have made actors’ task extremely difficult. However, if it really did, actually it didn’t show. All the actors, especially our friend Neus Umbert, did an amazing job. At times they spoke two continuous sentences but both representing different characters. This not only lent the play a wonderful pace and rhythm but it made the visual experience of watching the play even more wonderful. A spectator can see all the rules of conventional theatre falling apart and a new “formless” form emerging on the stage. Basic issue that the play addresses is that of obsession in our society with physical or external beauty. First, the very choice of drama as a medium demonstrates possibilities of creatively expressing social problems. While the innovating form of drama adopted by the author (and beautifully delivered by actors in this case) shows that how a rather common art form can be used in an uncommon way.

Neville Madraswalla (on Right) and yours truly

Neville Madraswalla (on Right) and yours truly

This also reminded me of something that we had attempted at Club De Têatre at L’alliance Française, Ahmedabad in 2004, which was conceptually similar, but in no way was similar in the quality of exectuion. My fellow actor Neville Madraswalla and Myself, we both played four characters each in a play titled, “Ghodo” (In English, “Horse”). However, our innovation stopped there, and so far as the structure of the play was concerned, we stayed loyal to conventional Scene-by-Scene structure of a play.

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