Mumbai performance: Eight one-act plays offer keen insight into human emotions

Updated: 23 January, 2018 10:33 IST | Kiran Mehta | Mumbai

A clutch of short stories offer keen insight into human emotions set in diverse urbane milieus, but adapted to suit the Mumbai audience


At first glimpse, the eight one-act plays clubbed together seem to have nothing in common. The viewer is transported from a café in Kolkata to a terrace in Mumbai, and even beyond to a world built on fantasy. While some plays explore topics like sexuality, others talk of addiction and escape from reality. "That's why it's called Tangent," explains Amoolya Narayan, director of the upcoming show that will debut at a Bandra space later this week.


But ask Tathagata Chowdhury, co-founder of Theatrecian, the theatre company that's bringing Tangent to Mumbai, on what holds the diverse acts together and he says, "They explore complex human relationships and offer insight into complicated human behaviour: what makes us tick, how emotions and thoughts can go together, or tear us apart."


An adaptation of several international plays, Tangent has been moulded to suit Indian audiences. Narayan says, "I chose the plays based on the conversations we're having in urban India." For instance, Anything for you, written by Cathy Celesia, was originally set in New York in 1993. But Tangent has Mumbai serving as the backdrop even as two women, who have been friends for several years, begin to explore their feelings for each other. As India's apex court looks into Section 377 of the Indian penal code (which criminalises sexual activities which are "against the order of nature"), the play once again pushes us to question our individual and collective attitudes towards homosexuality.

Amoolya Narayan
Amoolya Narayan

Stars, written by Romulus Linney and set in NYC, now plays out at an apartment in Worli. An emotional dance plays out between a man and a woman who step out from a party to smoke a cigarette on the terrace. In those few minutes, will these strangers connect deeply on an emotional level, or is this a hook-up, with no strings attached? These are the questions the audience will be asking themselves in the short span of this one-act drama.

Alex Broun's 10,000 cigarettes explores the dynamics of addiction - yet another familiar narrative across the country, not limited to the cities - as four chain-smoking sisters meet at their father's funeral, who passed away of lung cancer. They grieve together, not just the loss of their father, but also the eventual loss of their health and lives, as they share details about their addiction. Narayan reveals, "It's a non-judgmental look at addiction." The audience will accompany these women as they recall when they first smoked a cigarette and when it began to control them, and will be left exploring the unanswered: why we deliberately engage in habits that harm and devour us.

Narayan, who will be starring in Stars, is aware of the dual challenge, "As a director, I need to be in control, but as an actor I am required to surrender." Of acting in short plays she says, "It's difficult for us to switch between emotions, so swiftly. For 15-odd minutes, we're playing characters giddily in love, made to feel special by our love interests; in the next 10 minutes, we're just a faceless person in the crowds of VT (CST) station, grappling with loneliness."

With each varied character, the practical aspects of costume and make-up changes in a limited time period also surface. While it might be challenging for the cast and crew, a series of short plays has distinct advantages for the audiences. She reasons, "Whatever your taste, you'll find something you like at Tangent."

On: Thursday, 8 pm onwards
At: The The Cuckoo Club, Pali Hill Road, Bandra West.
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First Published: 23 January, 2018 10:15 IST

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