Trilogy of plays in Mumbai: Three days of the Passion
Starting on Maundy Thursday, a trilogy of plays based on the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ to be staged in contemporary and traditional set-ups, with aesthetics inspired by early Christian to early modern art
Paintings in motion" is how writer-director Omkar Bhatkar describes the three Passion plays that have kept him and his team busy for the past two months. While it's not uncommon to see parishes stage plays on the suffering of Christ in the days leading up to Easter, this trilogy aims to present a contemporary take on one of the episodes, while exploring the lesser-known side of the others, with a strong visual theme running throughout.
The costume dramas, Bhatkar informs, draw heavily from the Early Christian, Medieval, Byzantine, Renaissance and Early Modern art. And for this, the team dipped into over 200 paintings by Michelangelo, Raphael, Rembrandt, Carl Heinrich Bloch and other master artists from Europe.
An initiative of Fr Magi Murzello, rector of St Andrew's College, the trilogy starts with a performance of Lamentations of the Virgin, where the Passion of Christ is narrated through the eyes of Mother Mary. The contemporary twist here is the juxtaposition of this narration with the story of a character called Ophaelia. "She is a believer of Christ, and a passionate church-goer until something changes. So, it is a journey of faith and how doubt is inherent in faith," shares Bhatkar.
The Descent from the Cross by Dutch artist Rembrandt
The plays over the weekend will focus on lesser-explored facets of the Passion. Hour of the Mother delves into the grief of Mother Mary. "There is little mention of what happens in the journey from the pieta (the image of Mother Mary holding Christ's body) to the tomb. The play does not have a single dialogue and has very little movement. With a one-hour voiceover, it depicts how Mother Mary removes the crown of thorns, cleans her dead son's body drenched in blood and wraps it in linen," says Bhatkar.
Resurrection as the Angels Saw It is a physical theatre piece with Easter poems by Rudyard Kipling, Oscar Wilde and Maya Angelou playing in the background. "There is a strong presence of angels in the Nativity, but where were they when Christ was crucified? The play explores that," Bhatkar explains.
Each play has specifically designed aesthetic elements. The play on Easter Sunday, for instance, will have actors in white costumes, with fresh Easter lilies filling up the venue. And for the actors to absorb the painting-in-motion brief, prints of the artworks were used during rehearsals. "They all had to paint crucifixion scenes on paper, and since the plays involve minimal dialogues, they were asked to be silent on some days," says Bhatkar. "The actors have gone through a cathartic journey."
On April 18, 7.30 pm (Lamentations...)
At St Andrew's Centre for Philosophy and Performing Arts, Bandra West.
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Entry Rs 350 ON April 20, 9 am (Hour...), and 21, 7 pm (Resurrection...) at Apostolic Carmel School Hall, Bandra West. (Entry free)
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