Stuck in a state of impasse

Women-centric

A finite set of permutations and combinations can never define the circumstances that life puts us in, a refrain that rings out in the mind as you watch Castaways (Varadas) written by the Spanish playwright Itziar Pascual. 

Directed by Juhi Jha, the play was staged as a part of E-Day celebrations (a day dedicated to the celebration of Spanish language) at Instituto Cervantes, last weekend. 

Set out to explore the theme of political exile and the struggle of living as social and cultural outcasts, the play weaved together 10 different short scenes, the connecting link between them being the poignant tales of exile, some subtle, and others more pronounced. As the introductory note explained, Itziar dedicated these writings to “all those women in the 20th century who sailed on the ships of the forgotten.” 

Thus, the director chose to entwine these experiences with the act of a mime artiste, that resounded the deafening silence of the stories through the act. 

Etched on a stark white projection screen words like Forgotten, Passports, Checkpoint... ending in Memory, one after another, encapsulate the extract of the upcoming scene. The background dramatically changes into setups, shifting from a scene at the airport to one on the ship, with minimalistic props and beautifully selected set of pictures projected on the screen to create an ambience of the surroundings.

Immersed in the experience, a viewer doesn’t even mind the gradual shift in sets after every scene, in fact it all seems organic, as one becomes the part of the process, empathetically viewing the scenes that are played out. 

To mention a few, ‘Crossing’ takes you somewhere in the middle of the sea, in a marooned and stranded ship, where a mother forces her daughter to sleep while the child asks incessant questions about their state; ‘Exchanges’ where a maid tries to negotiate the opening of border for her mistress but the vile middle-woman mocks at her, rejecting the offer of the devalued currency in the times of war; and a special mention of ‘Checkpoint’ where an old woman cajoles an airport staff executive to let her enter their country, by singing praises of their land, only to find out that the executive takes away her jewels to trade her freedom. 

The play was the third performance in the ongoing series titled ‘women by women’ that curates the interpretations of emerging Indian women performers of the writings of the Spanish women writers. 

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