Unselfed and Unsure


How a theatre ignoramus found meaning in the phrase 'all the world's a stage'

Sure one has heard of Ibsen, read Beckett and dreamed of visiting Stratford-upon-Avon, even acted in a couple of school plays. But having said that, the great world of theatre remains a mystery. So on Thursday evening, it is with no small amount of curiosity that I made my way to the Meghdoot Theatre to watch Unselfed — a "devised performance piece" directed by Sujay Saple, as part of the Bharat Rang Mahotsav.

After leaving my shoes at the entrance, I sit down on the carpet in front of a low, dimly lit stage, which is empty apart from a wooden frame and Russian matryoshka dolls. Suddenly, the lights go out and a few scuffling noises later, an eerie piano jingle wafts out of the speakers. Slowly, the lights brighten to reveal the silhouettes of several bespectacled girls.

Over the next 75 minutes, these figures "explore the concepts of self and identity" through a series of dances, monologues and dialogues. The music oscillates from the main piano theme to smoky jazz to various Western classical pieces and the lights change colours to suit the tone. The frame is revealed to be a mirror, through which the characters enter and exit myriad dreamscapes and parallel universes. There isn't much dialogue, and most is left open to interpretation, but the intent (the deconstruction of self) is unmistakable.

Lacking an actual set, the actors utilise props such as the dolls (they represent the various selfs in a person), bones, boxes and clouds and clouds of talcum powder. Above all, they use their bodies, striking a number of dramatic poses, dancing sinuously and jerkily. All of them have that bonelessness that interpretative dance seems to require and they use it to their advantage. The performance is surreal and layered, ultimately making sense, but in a rather wonky manner.

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