Gnatak's 'The Train Driver' flags off Deccan Herald play fest

Gnatak's 'The Train Driver' flags off Deccan Herald play fest

 The Deccan Herald Theatre Festival began on Friday with a thoroughly enjoyable performance described by some as “hard hitting”. 

Four other plays are lined up as part of the festival on February 1 and 2 and February 8 and 9.   

‘The Train Driver’, written by well-known South African playwright Athol Fugard and directed by Anik Ghosh, is the story of Roelf Visagie (played by Rohit Dave), a white train driver who accidentally runs over a suicidal black woman and her baby and the feeling of remorse, anger mixed with guilt that engulfs him to the point that it drives him crazy. 

Roelf is overwhelmed by desire to find the dead black woman and “swear” at her at first for destroying his peace. Later, however, he feels a sense of empathy with the circumstances under which she let herself come under the train’s wheels.

The entire play is an interaction between Roelf and Simone, a black gravedigger (played by Abraham Karimpanal) who tries to help Roelf find the “nameless woman” and glimpses that emerge about their respective lives during its course. 

The graveyard and Simon’s ramshackle one-bed room are the main setting for all their interactions and the audience was regularly transported to the tracks of an approaching train, to a pitch dark and eerie graveyard with the help of excellent sound effects combined with minimalist but effective props. 

The play is described as “the guilt of the privileged few, the suffering of the many and the existential hopelessness of a country trying to come to terms with a violent past.”Speaking to Deccan Herald, Anik Ghosh, a big fan of Athol Fugard, said it took him and the team from Gnatak, the City-based theatre group, three weeks to prepare for the performance. 

“This is not the first time that we have staged a play by Fugard. When Deccan Herald had the theatre festival during the first few years in 1980, we staged a Fugard play then as well. The play is simple with only two characters, but with deep meaning,” said Ghosh.Anthony Fernandes, theatre enthusiast from the City, described the play as “excellent”. “I greatly enjoy watching plays and I can tell you that this was one of the excellent ones that I have seen,” Anthony said.

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