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Moving narrative of hope, survival

Henna Rakheja, March 6, 2013, DHNS: 20:07 IST

REGIONAL ADAPTATION

Twenty years ago when Sasidharan Naduvil read the words ‘You can kill me, but you can’t defeat me’, he was seized by them. He decided to bring them to life and the result was the adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s Nobel Prize winning novel The Old Man and the Sea into a play.

Recently staged at the LTG, as part of the ongoing META, the performance in Malayalam with English subtitles, by Rembrance Theatre Group, made the audiences realise the importance of ‘hope’.

Language never proved a barrier, as Hemingway’s story is well-known where he charts hard work, optimism and hope of an old fisherman named Santiago. The protagonist’s hope to reel in fish in spite of repeated failed attempts is what makes the story stand out. After 84 days without a catch, Santiago is considered unlucky by peers but the boy “Manolin, appears as a sign board to the future and fulfillment of dreams,” says Sasidharan , the director of the play. He like any other reader was awed by
Hemingway.

His analysis of the play took shape in the form of seamless visuals and the play erased boundaries between theatre and cinema for the stagecraft was cinematic. The use of props such as the boat, Marlin fish, sharks, etc added to the dramaturgy.

The play begins with a narrator, who reads out verses from the novel and then the theatrics follow on the stage which is set up impeccably with waves in front, blue painted background and of course a moving boat. The minute the boat started moving on the stage, the audiences broke into an applause for the imagery thus created,
impressed all.

In certain scenes, light stole the show, especially where one light falls on Santiago to represent sunrise while the old man is out in the sea to find a catch. Also, when Santiago’s successful catch, a Marlin is attacked by a school of sharks, the latter was presented in neon blue which shone in darkness giving goosebumps to the audience.
The sound a calm sea initially turns soon into jarring noise of waves but helps in building up the atmosphere.

So the stagecraft won over everything else in this performance. Even so, the play does manage to deliver the essence of the story even though the actors were doubtful of their capability. P T Manoj, who plays Santiago says, “I never thought I could do it because when I read the story I thought the old man has an unmatched power and motivation which could not be expressed. After rehearsals with the director, I got the energy to represent the character which has left an indelible imprint on every reader’s mind.”
True, for it is ‘hope’ that empowers all to sail through the struggle
of survival.

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