One direction

When Sanjoy Roy, managing director of Teamworks Arts Limited, which organises cultural events in India including the Jaipur Literature Festival, saw some solo acts at the Edinburgh Festival in Britain last year, he was so moved by them that he felt it was time to showcase them here. That led him to ideate the Going Solo, International Theatre festival (an event featuring three solo acts by foreign artistes) in the country. The event, which started off on October 11 at Bangalore, will travel to Delhi before concluding in Mumbai on October 21. Theatre aficionados will get an opportunity to see acclaimed British actor Pip Utton essay Adolf Hitler in a humourous avatar in Adolf. As Winston Churchill in Churchill, he will enact the UK Prime Minister and talk about his childhood, marriage and his passion for painting. In At The Edge, Jailoshini Naidoo, popular television presenter in South Africa, will portray 20 characters in Cato Manor, a working class area near Durban that witnessed riots after the locals clashed with the authorities. 

Pip Utton as Adolf Hitler in Adolf

Roy says, “In India, history is relegated as a subject in school and we never get to know diverse facets of historical figures or events. I thought it would be interesting for Indian audiences to see Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill in a new light.”

Utton and Naidoo are excited to perform here. Utton, who has been staging Adolf since 15 years and has already toured twice in India, says, “Adolf is a play with a positive message and strong social conscience. I hope people recognise this and agree with it. Churchill is a recent work. I expect the audiences to be both moved and entertained. There are many laughs and poignant moments in the play.

Quiz him how does he keep himself motivated while performing a solo act and he guffaws, “I’m a whisky fuelled super-hero. No, on a serious note, I realise that if I don’t keep up my energy levels, there is no one else to do it. I write my own scripts, as I want to take the audience on a journey where they can witness something interesting.”

In Adolf, he coaxes the audience to understand the mindset of a nation that could allow a man such as Hitler to take control. In the second part of the act, he emerges, without the wig and moustache. At first glance, it seems Utton is playing a happy-go-lucky guy chatting with the viewers. But over the course of the performance, he manipulates them into laughing at his jokes, nod in approval at his intolerant attitude and thereby pushes them into questioning their own prejudices and intolerance. Utton says the inspiration stemmed from the fact that he wanted to present Hitler as a three-dimensional character. “I believe that all of us are a little intolerant and prejudiced but most of the times we kept it under control until perhaps we are exploited by extremists,” he elaborates.

As for Churchill, the actor says, “It is an attempt at allowing the audience to spend a short time in the entertaining company of one of the most influential politicians of the 20th century. I attempt to entertain, amuse and move people with Churchill’s words.”

Utton, who has performed both the solo acts in diverse countries, says that the audience reactions have been varied. “At one point during a performance of Churchill at the Edinburgh Fringe, after one speech, a member of the audience got so carried away that he came on to the stage, shook my hand and said, ‘Thank you sir.’ The whole audience clapped and I continued with the play. This was a far cry from a lady in Preston who, during a performance of Adolf, stormed onto the stage and punched me.”

Naidoo, meanwhile, hopes that Indian audiences will identify with the characters that she is essaying in At The Edge. “Although it is set at a specific time and place in South Africa (SA), it is ultimately a human story. As a solo artiste, I had to be immersed in it every second,” she concludes.

When: October 19-21, 7 pm onwards 

Where: Sophia Bhabha hall, Bhulabhai Desai Road, Cumballa Hill
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