Eugene Ionesco's The Bald Soprano is being brought on stage by Kirtana Kumar. But the director is reluctant to reveal who the bald soprano is as that would be a spoiler
Rehearsals can throw up creative ideas that eventually become a part of the play. And in unique cases, like French playwrightEugene Inonesco's absurd play The Bald Soprano, being staged in town by theatre enthusiast Kirtana Kumar, the title of the play can also be traced back to the rehearsals. For it was a verbal slip-up by one of the actors of the play that gave birth to the title.
Ashwin Mathew and Kirtana Kumar
Kirtana's rehearsals have been less eventful though. Her group rehearsed only for eight weeks for the 70-minute play and the sessions were filled with laughter owing to the nature of the play. "The scenes are straightforward funny. They are slapstick. But just like every clown hides some pain, there's underlying pathos in the play. My character, Mrs Smith, talks about mundane things like potatoes, oil etc. And that seems funny. I laughed through the script and thought it would be a good idea to do this play," states Kirtana, who's directed the play.
The cast of The Bald Soprano
This is Ionesco's first play. He wrote it at the age of 38, just like fellow absurdist Samuel Beckett, who started writing plays at a later stage in his life. But the absurdist theme is universal and relevant, feels Kirtana. "Existential themes are relevant, more so in post liberal India that expects happiness to come out of conformity. Absurd plays were written in Europe when it was going through the same social scenario. That's why so many absurd plays have been staged in India in the last few years," maintains Kirtana.
Ionesco wrote this play as a protest to the salon theatre culture that was prevalent in Paris during his times. "It was conservative, elitist and he challenged it by calling his work an anti-play. He was influenced by Dada movement that was anti-war and started during World War 1," reveals Kirtana.
This has been her most challenging directorial venture. But it's also been the most pleasurable. "I have had to tackle six characters and find each of their motivation and intention. One has to read into the text to find that as it's a non-linear narration and the language highly stylised. Why are they saying what they are? As for my character, she's repressed and a conformist, allowing rationality to work for her life. She feels that if she's rational, everything will add up. But eventually it doesn't. Ionesco challenges her ideas," says Kirtana.
The play is set in 1950s England in the drawing room of the Smiths and starts with the actors disturbed by a wildly chiming clock. The Smiths invite the Martins home and the two couples struggle to engage in a sensible conversation. "Ionesco wrote the play when he was learning English. Hence he makes fun of the mechanisms of speaking the language. He uses language devices in his plays. For instance, he lies to the audience. There might be a line saying, 'My daughter's name is Peggy. But after a while, it could be, "My daughter's name is Helen. The audience may or may not be aware of this trick," avers Kirtana.
In keeping with the absurdist tradition, the end of this play is inconclusive. "The end always leaves you with questions. You have to see how much the audience is willing to look into the mirror. We allow them to take back whatever they like from the play," states Kirtana.
The music of the play has been scored by noted guitarist and Kirtana's husband Konarak Reddy. "Usually the actors depend on the music to support their performance. I wanted them to develop their own trajectory and got the music in the end," she says.
The play has been invited to Columbo, Sri Lanka. "They are building a festival around our production. We will visit Columbo in January 2012," signs off Kirtana.
Where Ranga Shankara, JP Nagar
On September 8, 9, 10 and 11
For Rs 150