Art and Idiocy

Hardam Mareez-an adaptation of Molliere's Imaginary Invalid- produced by Theatre Spirits (a Bombay group) made an unpromising Friday evening, mesmerised. By the sheer energy of the production. And I can think of no other word than 'energy' to describe the production. A refreshing change from years of mediocre 'tech-school-enthu-kids' efforts, and pretentious arty-thespian-guru productions, that I've watched in the recent years.

The first thing that catches one's attention about the play is a minimal stage, with a riot of colours thrown in by way of costumes. Halogen yellows, greens, pinks, reds creating a sense of absurdity. Of mesmerising ludicrous. With hoop-skirts and kaftans. And all footwear being coloured keds. A stylised dialogue-delivery in shudhh Hindi further consolidated the feel of absurd fantasy. More so, by exaggerated props (a cardboard lollipop, cardboard injection syringe, cardboard rose,empty wine bottles).

A hypochondriac man, a conniving stepmother, the damsel-in-distress daughter contemplating suicide (but never really...) out of unfulfilled love, her dreamy lover, a scoundrel of a stepmother's lover, eager-to-please suitor. And the star-of-the-show, the cunning maid-servant. Played with inconceivable artistry and stage-energy, by Shipra Singh, she is the cunning, sexual, assertive, foul-mouthed, garrulous, well-meaning woman. Whose every movement, every expression, every flirtation strikes the audience, with an injection of energy.

Art for art's sake. Epitomised. Two resplendent dance sequences.To what end, am not very sure. But mesmerising nevertheless. One by a cross-dressed, male dancer- an exotic, gypsy performance. Art of energy and madness. Unfettered idiocy. And sexuality. Spells out this production. No pretentious black boxes, and red scarves. No political, feminist, development, war, ethnicity, world bank angst. Refreshingly mad. Somewhat reminded me of a Nandikar fable-production I watched years back, in Cal, of course, with a higher skill-set of musical artistry (the Bong snob speaks). But, similar madness, energy, sort of a meaningless artistic journey.

If you're free this weekend shows are running today and tomorrow, at Shri Ram Centre, Safdar Hashmi Marg at 7 p.m. I am still reeling under the impact of Hardam Mareez.

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