Attend this play to know how sexism exists in our everyday lives

Apr 12, 2018, 08:02 IST | Snigdha Hasan

A physical theatre performance premiering in the city brings to light everyday acts of sexism that well-meaning individuals perpetuate

Writer, director and actor Deepika Arwind in various scenes from the performance
Writer, director and actor Deepika Arwind in various scenes from the performance

When Bengaluru-based theatre maker and playwright Deepika Arwind uses the terms "daily misogyny" and "everyday sexism", she suggests that we see the acts in the light of their alarmingly rampant nature. "Because they happen all the time, we feel these are minor skirmishes, but precisely because they happen every day, they are problematic. More than the incident itself, they represent a kind of mindset. They are symptomatic of a larger culture, of the way in which we view women, their prerogatives, agency and intellect," she says.

Writer, director and actor Deepika Arwind in various scenes from the performance

It is this normalisation of the societal treatment of women that led Deepika to devise the physical theatre performance, No Rest in the Kingdom. Produced by Sandbox Collective, a platform for the arts, and developed at Shoonya – Centre for Art and Somatic Practices in Bengaluru, the performance has travelled to festivals in Delhi, Puducherry, Chennai and Colombo. It will premiere in Mumbai at Studio Tamaasha this Friday, and will also be performed at other venues in the city over the weekend.

Writer, director and actor Deepika Arwind in various scenes from the performance

Though the performance deals with serious themes, Deepika felt it was best to present it as a comedy. "As we inch towards our 30th show, I can say safely that the performance is quite funny and gets a lot of people laughing. Whether it's for the right reasons or not, we can't really know," she shares.

The performance unfolds through three pieces, with two male protagonists and a female one, and the motif of a feline character running through all the pieces culminates in a cat rap in the end. The characters, Deepika tells us, are people we all know or come across regularly. A well-meaning man, for instance, with a seemingly innocuous concern for women's safety.

Deepika has also delved into her own experiences for the performance. "Even discussions on women's issues feature more men. I have been on panels where I was the token woman. People don't let you speak even if you have something important to say, whereas there is a certain self-assuredness with which men speak even if they talk drivel. That they are able to do that speaks a lot about our culture," she says.

What surprises Deepika is that such behaviour is perpetuated by highly educated people, who have access to everything - the Internet and alternative media platforms writing relentlessly about gender. And how does No Rest in the Kingdom aim to change that? "There isn't much room for debate because the performance lays down what actually happens. So, it's like you are a fly on the wall, observing how a situation unfolds. What you make of it, and how you channel that into your life is up to you," says the unassuming artiste. "And of course, this is one of the many performances that are happening around gender and the larger topic of sexuality in the country today. So, I don't hope to make some life-altering change, but I hope that engaging with such performances, literature, film and meaningful TV will help people understand the nuanced and complex way in which gender functions."

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