/Living Theatre, Doing Theatre

Living Theatre, Doing Theatre

After two years of pandemic and giving up so many chances of watching live theatre, on the afternoon of 8th March 2022, the theatre students of DP2 brought theatre alive with their solo performances as part of their HL task- Solo Theatre Piece. In this task, the students perform an 8min solo piece on their chosen theatre theorist and highlight a specific aspect or aspects through their work. The performances were not only a fantastic opportunity for us students and faculty members to watch interesting and thought proving theatrical pieces, but it was also an intellectually stimulating exercise.

The Unforgettable 84

We find religion tucked into all parts of India. We wear it on our skin, we express it in practice, and we feel it dripping from the tips of our tongues. One’s religion is one’s community, and that is the India we have come to know. A land so diverse that cultural normativity is positively alien. But what we do not get to know- or what we refuse to comprehend are the marginalised stories that seep within cultural bounds and stain communities forever.

Japmun Kaur Hora, a student of DP2 took it upon herself to encompass the ostracization the Sikh community faced post the assassination of Indra Gandhi in 1984. ‘The Unforgettable 84’, a time so plagued with tragedy and well versed in violence that its existence is forbidden from the media’s tongues. Japmun took it upon herself to paint the stage with red in remembrance of all those that suffered- and still suffer from the consequences of 1984.

Her act began with a blood orange set as Japmun takes off the turban placed on her head. As the cloth slowly unravelled, so did the symbolism behind it. The fear India drenched into the Sikh populous’ mind made them forcefully unravel their religion, their community from their skin, just to make sure that they would not bare the same fate most had before them.

Japmun recalls the stories she had been told as a child, those of night-time horrors, and violence by day. In a land that preaches false diversity, Japmun Hora calls out their fallacies and shares the stories of the oppressed, ensuring that one day all of this would be remembered as a night-time horror, and a violence come day rather than a reality that strikes us in the present. She does this so beautifully with the help of visuals and voice overs, creating an interesting way of storytelling. The most striking was the choice of wearing a mask, while narrating the stories of some of the survivors, making us question how individual identities merge to become one and at the same time provoking us to think beyond identities.

The Standoff – Passion with a Hint of Rebellion

In this new era of claiming what is ours, Justice and Rebellion have been known to be co-related to each other. People rebel when justice is not given. We gather up hordes of like-minded kin and march up to the authorities, waiving our flag in the gentlest form, would you think this to be violent? The Indian government certainly did when farmers from Punjab and Haryana stood up for their rights and fought against the new Farm Bills passed in 2020.

Tanya Singh, a DP 2 student, weaved a story so shattering that I could almost feel the stage quaking with anger along-side her words. For her Theatre HL task- the Solo Theatre Piece, Tanya truly made us a willing victim to the heart-wrenching retelling of the Farmers Rights insurgence.

Fighting against your own government is rebellion in its most concentrated form, and Tanya did not hesitate to paint us a picture so intricate, that one could only marvel at the fiasco the stage had become. She had transformed the stage into a news channel room and claimed the title of the reporter. With masterful utilisation of props such as handmade placards, a lathi, and a tambourine, objects one often associates with a protest in this country, and the constant yet brilliant transition of character, switching back and forth from being a news presenter to a protesting farmer, Tanya breathed life into what we would consider as everyday news, dramatizing them, contradicting them, and punctuating them with passionate delivery of a poem written by the protesting farmers. Augusto Boal would be happy to see Tanya’s interpretation of his Newspaper Theatre. The entire experience was enriched with passion and rebellion, two flavours that go very well together.

Body Talk

The second half of the IBDP Solo Theatrical Piece was kicked off with Mughda Vaid’s monologue performance, namely “Body Talk.” This theatrical performance in a naturalistic kitchen setting revolved around showcasing how society confines women to their gender roles and that men, are seen as ‘masters’ and superior to women. In the performance, Mughda brought out the two stereotypes and gender roles associated with women: always decking themselves up with makeup and confining to societal beauty standards as well as always being at home and in the kitchen. Through this eye-opening theatrical performance using negative spacing, symbolistic props, and the element of music, Mughda brought out the emotional, and unequal mistreatment of women and how societal norms established on women’s gender roles do not define them and their capabilities as individuals.

A particularly brilliant aspect of the performance was shown in how the character played by Mughda sang the alphabets, with each letter of the alphabet being object stereotypes associated with women like “L for lipstick” or “K for Knives.” This also symbolized to the audience how gender roles have been imprinted on women ever since they were children, probably why the ‘alphabets song’ was chosen. This was incorporated with putting props on the table like a toaster, mirror, utensils, and more. Mughda’s acting skills were also further brought out via her emotions that beautifully complemented her words, voicing women and their frustrations towards gender roles. This was portrayed on the action of smearing lipstick while being mad, then covering it up immediately to show how women are forced to deal with it and not speak up against such defamations. The play truly kept the audience at the edge of their chairs and their eyes peeled, capturing the attention of everyone in the room. In conclusion, this performance was absolutely astounding, highlighting the artistic intention to voice women and that societal built gender roles do not and should not define women. It also highlighted that woman are equal to men, with the play symbolically ending with Mughda’s character saying: “History is made by women, just as much as men.”

Rhapsody. Inc

The last but certainly not the least, was Khushi Upadhyay’s theatrical piece named “Rhapsody. Inc.”. Inspired by the playwright Bertolt Brecht and her own personal experiences, Khushi’s artistic intention lay in political and social reform to portray how individuals in society are like ‘machines’ and ‘robots’ made to conform to society’s expectations and thus are being abused by it. In addition, it highlights how people are expected to devote their lives to their jobs and work continuously, thus making them cut down on their personal lives and live life to the fullest. The monologue highlighted how individuals are so caught up in their work, being driven by negligible aspects like being ‘No.1 Employee’ written on a cup that somehow justifies all the stress. This was brought out by the extensive pouring of the sugar by Khushi in her coffee No.1 Employee mug. Thus, this symbolically represents whether or not a simple ‘title’ is worth all the stress and anxiety of devoting one’s life to just their job.

Khushi also incorporated the theatrical technique of alienation and breaking the fourth wall, hence directly addressing the audience and making them feel engrossed in the happenings on stage. Furthermore, Khushi marvellously incorporated different aspects such as dance, lighting, and silence to further convey the emotion of a highly straining environment with so much going on. She exquisitely portrayed how our lives are like jobs with endless work as we in society “fear a different path because it is risky and unconventional.” Khushi also depicted how we all have had passions and aspirations, like becoming an actress or artists which is deemed ‘unsafe,’ thus being forced to pick corporate jobs. Hence, it demonstrated societal norms and how everyone is restrained by them.

Khushi stated her intention was for ‘people to open their eyes towards such social expectations and how we should live our life to the fullest, spend time with friends and family more since that is what really matters, for we are humans, not machines. In conclusion, this was truly an authentic, raw, and splendid performance by Khushi that left the audience in awe!

Written by Riya Sabherwal & Sarah Ejaz, DP1