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Defining madness: A play based on a British comedy to be showcased tomorrow

A play based on a British comedy questions society's penchant for labels

Neeraj Purohit, Anupama Udawant, Pururava Rao, Abhash K Makharia, Deepika Pandey and Hrushi Poddar
Neeraj Purohit, Anupama Udawant, Pururava Rao, Abhash K Makharia, Deepika Pandey and Hrushi Poddar

In a world where we all have our foibles and quirks, who gets to decide who is mad? That's a question English playwright Joe Orton sought to answer through his swansong, What the Butler Saw, a dark comedy about a prominent psychiatrist, his secretary and wife. Fifty years later, the story, still relevant, unfolds in an upcoming production that places the plot in an Indian context.

Deepika Pandey and Hrushi Poddar; The play premiered in 1969. Pics/Datta Kumbhar
Deepika Pandey and Hrushi Poddar; The play premiered in 1969. Pics/Datta Kumbhar

"I saw a production of What the Butler Saw when I was in New York, and it stayed with me. Orton, after Oscar Wilde, is the funniest playwright I have come across," says co-director Raghav Aggarwal. The actors are graduates from acting coach Saurabh Sachdev's institute. "Through the course, we stage several short plays, and on completion, we come up with a full-fledged production. The idea is to give a platform to young, talented actors," says Sachdev, co-director, who has also trained Bollywood actors like Varun Dhawan and Arjun Kapoor, among others.

The play starts with the psychiatrist interviewing a naïve candidate for his secretary's post. He moves on to a physical examination, when his wife, who has her own interesting history, enters. The plot revolves around how things go south from there, and how the doctor creates a facade of blatant lies to mend matters. While the original script had several references to Winston Churchill, the Indian version refers to 'Mr Gandhi'.

"We give a lot of authority to psychiatrists to define madness. The script takes a dig at the Freudian theory of how everything links back to childhood," shares Aggarwal. "We, as a society are quick to label people, be it calling someone mad, or as is the case today, anti-national. Come to think of it, even Saina Nehwal, who represents India at the international level, was not spared the tag just because she posed with a China-made phone. Through the play, we are also laughing at ourselves."

ON: June 30, 7.30 pm
AT: Sophia College Campus, Bhulabhai Desai Road, Breach Candy.
LOG ON TO: bookmyshow.com
COST: Rs 150 onwards

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