Finding Medea in Mumbai

Updated: Dec 04, 2019, 09:16 IST | Dalreen Ramos | Mumbai

As a Greek tragedy by Euripides readies to premier this weekend, mid-day chats with producer Sarika and the young cast on their process, its relevance and why it's more than just a woman going rogue

The cast during a theatre game conducted by the director. Pics/ Satej Shinde
The cast during a theatre game conducted by the director. Pics/ Satej Shinde

The story of Medea is not shrouded in mystery but largely summarised in two parts: a) Medea, princess of Colchis and sorceress is furious when her husband Jason, also hero of the Golden Fleece abandons her for a new, royal bride in Corinth. b) She kills her children. As facts in a tragedy written by Greek playwright euripides and first produced in 431 BC, they are both true. What's also true is this perspective entails judging a book by its cover. It is more than the thirst for revenge and starting this weekend, a play hopes to show you why.

enthusiasm is apparent at a rehearsal space in Aram Nagar, where people hurriedly descend the stairs in togas. The production is helmed by actors Sarika and Akshara Haasan of Nautankisa Production. Sarika essays the role of a hands-on producer when I meet her; keeping track of the cast's make-up, snack supply, time stamps of the rehearsal, and, like everyone else in the city, the weather. In the middle of it all, she makes time for a meeting in the vanity room to talk about the intimacy of theatre and above all, euripides' Medea. "I don't know how to say it without sounding mushy. Theatre is very warm. There is no money so everybody comes down to one level. There is no star. everybody does everything," she says, and that's all she wants to say.

Ira Khan, (top) The cast during a theatre game conducted by the director. PICS/SATEJ SHINDEIra Khan

The only glimpse we catch of the rehearsal is an exchange of screams. It's more than we're allowed. There is no denying that this endeavour has the "big names" if you hit Google search. But time and again, Sarika suggests that this attachment of a cast member to a personality or a project is irrelevant and doesn't inform their practice. This suggestion is an easy pill to swallow, once she introduces me to the team. The setting isn't one that comes naturally to journalists: you imagine a tete-à-tete situation and walk into something resembling a seance.

Seated in a circle are an odd-15 members of the cast and crew. My first question stems from Fiona Shaw's statement — the actress who played Medea in Deborah Warner's iconic production at the Queen's Theatre in London — where she addresses the excretion of language. "This play reminds you of the terrible things we say casually to each other. Like: 'If you don't come in from the garden I'll kill you'," she said. As team members, how do they identify with Medea? Hazel Keech Singh, who plays the titular character, announces that mostly, Medea is not very relatable. "I do admire her sense of self-respect, of what is right and wrong and of setting an example not just for Jason, but all men. She proves that she has the audacity to stand up for herself." Director Ira Khan, adds to that saying, "For me, it's more about whether you go with your instinct or adhere to what is acceptable to society."

While actors Varun Patel, Heli Vyas and Divyesh Vijayakar highlight the themes of the play — the existence of an absolute truth, the upbringing of children and the historicity — they mention that they maintained a clear path to perfecting their roles, a retreat to Panchgani and Khan's didactic approach to Greek literature certainly helped. "Hey! I cancelled the test, okay!" Khan remarks, as the room erupts in laughter.

SarikaSarika

This isn't a play made for an Indian audience. "It's about a woman being wronged," Singh says. "A 'person' being wronged," retorts Khan. "A woman, specifically, wronged, and not just in India," Singh quips. So, in many ways this is a cast that will leave you grateful for not having watched the rehearsal in its entirety.

On December 7 to 12
On August 14, 6 to 10 pm
AT G5A, Mahalaxmi and Prithvi Theatre, Juhu. 
Log on to in.bookmyshow.com
Cost Rs 500

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