Touching upon the absurd

Touching upon the absurd

Bald Soprano

There is a certain charm to chaos – proved amply by ‘The Bald Soprano’, a
play written by Eugene Ionesco, which belongs to that rare genre – theatre of
the absurd.

Chaotic: A scene from the play.

The play was recently staged at Chowdiah Memorial Hall as a part of the Deccan Herald Theatre Festival.

It was presented by the theatre group ‘Little Jasmine’, and was directed by Kirtana Kumar, who also played a pivotal role in it.

The other actors in the production included Ashvin Mathew, Fizz, Lekha Naidu, Prerna Kaul and Sanjay Iyer. Remaining true to its genre, the play remained
firmly rooted in absurdity throughout.

The stage was set with a large clock, a pair of bright red doors and a small fridge with the British flag painted on it – a tribute to the staunchly English flavour of the
characters and plot.

The first scene introduces the audience to a couple called the Smiths – while the husband is a stocky, bald gentleman (one can almost hear the audience wondering whether he is the Bald Soprano), his wife is a rather loquacious woman with a smart bob and spectacles.

The conversation that follows contradicts itself repeatedly; while Mrs Smith first compliments the dinner they just ate, her husband soon adds that they’ve eaten nothing the entire day.

They are interrupted by a slightly intoxicated woman dressed in butterfly-wings and a large bow in her hair, who dramatically introduces herself as the maid, Marianne, and then continues to explain to the audience just how she spent her day.

The Smiths are expecting their friends, Elizabeth and Donald Martin, to come over for dinner – but when they do, there is no one to greet them but Marianne, who soon leaves them alone.

The Martins then start to converse in a manner that suggests they are strangers, and it’s only after an exhausting fifteen minutes that they establish they are husband and wife.

To the audience’s complete bemusement, Marianne enters the stage right after they come to this conclusion, and informs that this isn’t the case - “Not only are they not parents of the same child, but they aren’t really Elizabeth and Donald,” she confides, enigmatically.

After this, one stops trying to make sense of the proceedings. They are soon visited by a fire chief, dressed in a helmet, combat boots, and sporting, for some reason, a guitar.

The group proceeds to tell each other stories and recite poems – each more ridiculous than the precious one – until it transpires that Marianne has actually been having an affair with the fire chief all along.

Before leaving, the fire chief makes a remark about the Bald Soprano – but Mrs Smith dismisses him with a completely unrelated statement and he departs.
At this point, all the characters seem to spiral into madness.

They spin around the stage, making completely unrelated remarks.

As their rants grow louder and more absurd, the lights begin to dim; and when they come back on, the Martins are sitting in the chairs that the Smiths had occupied at the beginning of the play, saying the exact dialogues that the saga began with.

One would assume that such a genre wouldn’t go very well with the audience in the City, but Kirtana revealed that this wasn’t the fact at all.

“This is such a truthful play – it’s not a gimmick at all. It was tough to translate emotions on stage, and also difficult to make the entire production accessible to people – especially the last scene.

But I’ve had an extraordinary cast,” she said, adding that she was thrilled with the response that the play had received.

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