No ordinary tree

Theatrical piece Larbre E'trange (The Strange Tree) digs into mythology and folklore to show the connection between human beings and trees

In popular folklore and mythology, trees belong to the realm of the surreal. They serve as a symbolic, living link between our world and that inhabited by supernatural beings. Playwright Omkar Bhatkar builds his theatrical piece Larbre E'trange (The Strange Tree) on this premise; trees possess a spirit that is intrinsically linked with the mortal soul. Produced by Metamorphosis Theatre Inc, the 75-minute theatrical piece with an eight-member cast is woven together by three stories of people plagued with loneliness and abandonment, who find solace in a strange tree. Using elements of poetry, physical theatre, music and fine arts, the play is an amalgamation of the arts and a first-of-its-kind to be staged in the city.

(Standing from left to right) Pushkar Priyadarshi, Farshan Sheth, Gauravshri Jain and Rohit Jadhav (sitting) during the rehearsal of the Eclipse Story
(Standing from left to right) Pushkar Priyadarshi, Farshan Sheth, Gauravshri Jain and Rohit Jadhav (sitting) during the rehearsal of the Eclipse Story

"While poetry, music and physical theatre form a part of the act, you'll also see actor Ajinkya Shirodkar making a painting of a tree on stage," says Bhatkar, currently a senior research scholar at the department of Sociology, University of Mumbai. The tales have been inspired by Chinese, Japanese and Greek folklore. "But, you can find parallels even in Indian mythology," he says, adding, "Here we have the concept of sacred groves, where people do not harm trees mainly due to fear of the deity, believing that whoever harms the sacred grove will face consequences," he says. Last The 26-year-old stumbled upon a sacred grove during a trip to Goa, which left him intrigued. "Instead of alcohol, I returned with tons of books on this subject," he laughs.

This was followed by a month of extensive research, with Bhatkar, a voracious reader, devouring books on mythology and online material on the significance of trees across cultures. He finally found three stories that would form the crux of the play, one a Chinese folklore about a magical pear tree planted by a poor monk when he was denied a pear in the market. From Japanese mythology, comes the tale of the spirit of an Oruso tree which falls in love with a young girl who has been named after it. What happens next is something the audience will see. Drawing from Greek folklore is story of the charioteer of the sun god Apollo who falls in love with a mortal Kalabos who is already committed. “It is a poetic journey of three lonely lives connected to a strange tree. It is a story where realism meets surrealism," says Bhatkar.

Writer and director Omkar Bhatkar
Writer and director Omkar Bhatkar

While most plays produced by Metamorphosis are usually ready in a month's time, this one took four months because Bhatkar couldn’t find the right actor. "Many people don’t believe in physical theatre. There’s also absurd poetry in it. Unless you connect with the story, you wont' be able to emote," he says. "Rehearsals were an exhaustive affair as the actors had to reflect the pain felt by the characters. But there was always sense of satisfaction because we had connected to the story." he adds.

WHERE: Hive, 50-A, Huma Mansion, Next To Ahmed Bakery, Chuim Village Road, Off Union Park, Khar West
WHEN: Today, 8.30 PM
ENTRY: Rs 200
CALL: 9619962969

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