Sketching Anne through dramatic readings

Sketching Anne through dramatic readings

Even before the audience can gather its thought and attention inside CD Deshmukh Auditorium at India International Centre, the director says, “Be prepared for a grin evening”, scaring the daylights out of all those who considered themselves lucky to have bagged a seat inside a jam-packed room.

And why not, given it was a free staging of Feisal Alkazi’s direction of Attempts on Her Life by
Martin Crimp.

Having been suitably warned and scared, one musters courage to sit through the performance, only to realise that it is not so ‘grim’ after all, having seen Alkazi’s previous productions.

More so, because the director takes into account the constraints the auditorium places on him and uses it to full advantage to give beautifully synchronised lights all through the play, that deserves due mention!

A totally unconventional piece, Attempts... is a non-linear narrative about the story of a girl named ‘Anne’. While deconstructing the name (Attempts on Her Life), one is able to make out that the plot might draw parallels between the life of a girl and how it is like to be her.

There are also chances of discussing how she was before she was raped, abducted or tortured
before death.

In reality, however, the playwright proves all predictions wrong and Alkazi employs eight actors on stage to delineate the character of Anne through varied references.

Her parents speak of her peculiar childhood, while friends speak of her carnal adulthood.

Some speak of the meetings between them and Anne and, all through the first half, the viewer tries to put together everything in order to construct the protagonist’s real identity.

Somewhere in the middle, the playwright confuses the audience by devoting a complete scene to the trees planted in the valley on the birth of every child and named after them.

More so, in the scene where the advertisement translated from French (fluently spoken by the female actor Nandini Sra) to English (by four male actors), it is difficult to subscribe to the fact that ‘Anne’ could also be the name of a car!   

Nevertheless, the real Anne never makes an appearance and the story keeps audience engaged in mulling over questions such as: ‘Why was Anne a ‘red canvas bag’ filled with stones throughout her mountaineering escapades?’ 

In different scenes, the actors read through the handouts and follow the guidelines of the ace director to present an experimental play that has been adapted and performed in more than 20 languages.

The technique adapted by Alkazi to present this performance categorises it more as a dramatic reading. Yet, the proficiency with which the actors read and express alongside, makes the story thrilling and the narrative intriguing.

The story talks of different themes such as hypocrisy of people in disrespecting other ethnic tribes and the incomplete nature of news flashes on television that almost always conceal the truth.

Alkazi, who was impressed by Crimp’s style and content, admits to the presence of subtle humour in the play, especially in the scene where the car is described.

Even the music that he chooses to play is quite plaintive initially. But this soon turns into celebratory with addition of violin notes and becomes a supporter of resistance by people.    

Not to forget the presence of a number of pairs of heels on stage indicated that it would be a female-centric story. But the varied attitudes worn by different female actors (carefree, motherly concern, provider, teenager, etc) make the play more layered even as it keeps progressing.

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