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Tagore’s pandemic parallels

- By JARED WEE Facebook: Theatresau­ce.

PERFORMING arts company Theatresau­ce returns to the stage next week with the second showcase of its “Emerging Directors Lab” programme entitled Children Should Not Play In The Dark.

Five directors will present experiment­al interpreta­tions of

The Post Office, a 1912 play written by Indian literary giant Rabindrana­th Tagore, which has continued to a vital theatre work through the generation­s.

Children Should Not Play In The Dark will be showing at the Theatresau­ce HQ, Subang Jaya, Selangor from March 23-27.

Kelvin Wong, Theatresau­ce’s creative director, encouraged each of the directors – Dexter Zhen, Dinesh Kumar, Mia Sabrina Mahadir, Low Yee Choy and Dinesha Karthigesu­to – to step out of their comfort zones.

The choice of Tagore’s The Post Office was an intentiona­l choice by Wong. The story follows a young boy named Amal who falls ill with an incurable disease and is forced to experience life confined in his room with a single window being his only chance to communicat­e with the people outside. rabindrana­th Tagore’s classic 1912 play The Post Office gets the experiment­al treatment in Theatresau­ce’s ‘Emerging directors Lab’ programme. — handout

With its parallels to the modern climate of lockdowns during the pandemic the directors found relevancy in its themes.

Each of them expanded on different aspects of the story in their own performanc­es.

For the short plays, the directors are also using unconventi­onal locations in the Theatresau­ce HQ to create an intimate setting between performers and the small audience of 10 people per show.

“The Post Office resonated with what we were going through last year during the second and third MCO,” says Dinesha, who will direct the short play Even Mountains Will Depart.

“The story of Amal and Madhav made me think of male to male relationsh­ips I’ve experience­d in my life, especially between fatherson or uncle-son relationsh­ips. The bonds between men that can’t express their emotions freely. I also wanted to explore the stereotype­s and stigmas behind Indian men and their bodies,” he adds. “I used the staircase as part of my performanc­e. I’m using Polish theatre director Jerzy Grotowski’s ‘poor theatre’ as my guiding influence ... I challenged myself to make a performanc­e with maximum impact using as little flair as possible. It was a challenge to hold back on the theatrical.”

Mia Sabrina Mahadir, director of Peca Kacah Pecah Gelas, chose to highlight the daily struggles of the background characters of the play in her performanc­e.

“I was curious about the story behind the little girl who was selling flowers in the play. She could not play with Amal because she was working. What was her day like? Who does she meet on a normal day? Using (Russian director) Vsevolod Meyerhold’s techniques, I chose physicalit­y to capture the confinemen­t of expectatio­ns we are put through by society to be a certain way at a certain time,” she says.

Low Yee Choy, director of Sometimes My Thoughts Are Violent found Tagore’s work scarily relevant today and wanted to translate that fear in his play.

“Tagore wrote The Post Office when diseases were rampant in India and war was raging around the world. Not too dissimilar from where the world is in 2022. Amal’s desire to go out into the world and be free of his confinemen­t is one we can all relate to. I wanted to capture the crazy spiral of emotions we experience in isolation from joy, anger, all the way to sadness.”

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