The proscenium curve has flattened

Updated: Aug 02, 2020, 07:57 IST | Gitanjali Chandrasekharan | Mumbai

The last frontier of theatre has arrived. What does watching a play on screen feel like?

Vivek Madan during a performance of Every Brilliant Thing
Vivek Madan during a performance of Every Brilliant Thing

Why do we watch plays? At a time, when you simply can't run out of OTT options, what form of entertainment does a theatre performance provide?

As QTP's Every Brilliant Thing (written in 2013 by Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe) made it to Zoom over July, logging in to watch yet another thing online and having to watch people—many of whom knew each other—and ideally participate, as was the mandate of the interactive performance, caused both screen fatigue and brought on the anxiety of having to speak to people and interact in a social setting. Ironically, just a few days ago one had pined for social interaction. Perhaps for introverts, finding themselves in the midst of strangers is going to be more difficult than ever when socialising replaces social distancing.

As Vivek Madan, the host and the main protagonist, leads the viewers through the story, other viewers are asked to sit in a quiet place at home. Some, on cue, are asked to participate. Either with a prompt of a number [No 324, for instance, Julie Andrew's voice is one of the things that make to Vivek's list of things he likes]. Through the 90-minute-long performative play, you are led through Vivek's life and musings on death, suicide, love… with some viewers asked to take on roles of other characters, a father, a date, a professor.

The show was first staged in March 2019 and had been running for a year before the lockdown began. Quasar Thakore-Padamsee of QTP says, "For us, the biggest struggle was trying to make the online performance recreate the sense of community that the stage show did. It took us a while, and many weeks of exploring. What we've stumbled on is not a play, because in a play or in a theatre, actor and audience share the same physical space, and so do the audience members with each other. Zoom is not that. So, we've come up with a slightly different way of telling this narrative. As a participative story-sharing experience."

As Vivek talks to you through the camera, looking directly at you from the screen, live from his home, it becomes a far more intimate space in a way.

Watching something on an OTT is a singularly solo experience. We would attend plays perhaps to watch, experience it as a community. There's been an argument for many years that watching a play on screen will ruin that live experience. Nobody denies that.

But, at a time when you can't go to the theatre, the theatre must come to you; with actors performing alone at their home, and viewers like us, connecting across geographies and time zones. The good thing is, you might still be able to catch a play on a Friday evening at 6 pm, when your work gets done at 5.30 pm (or even 7 pm) and where you work or live in the city is no longer a handicap.

When: August 2; 6 pm
Price: Rs 400 – Rs 600
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