When theatre deals with war

When theatre deals with war

Stagecraft

The sound of constant hammering of nails in wooden planks echoes in the mind, just as the movement of actors on the stage, in the aftermath of war, has a lasting effect on the psyche of the audience. Those present to witness the play With Unarmed Forces felt perturbed at the end. But that is exactly what the performance attempted!

Broadly performed in non-verbal language with a few dialogues in English, the play written and directed by Idit Herman takes an hour and ten minutes to represent the present state of people living in Israel.

Before staging the play at the ongoing 17th Bharat Rang Mahotsav, the playwright has taken it to several festivals across the globe. Unaware of the response in other countries, Metrolife joins the audience to witness the tragic-comic physical theatre piece on a basic stage, set up inside Bahumukh auditorium, at National School of Drama.

A couple, living an enclosed life in their home meets the ‘Spirit of War’ in the form of a kitsch superhero – belonging to the world of endless war outside. The interaction between the couple and the superhero is what forms the narrative of the play.

The non-verbal actions of the actors keep the audience engaged throughout the duration of the show. This activity on the stage is supported by props such as onions, knife, chairs, mattress, a bottle filled with water and a string which connects all of these.

In various sections, these elements on the stage (including the actors) come together with the help of the string and then there is an attrition of the bond created. The factors from the outer world aid in breaking this attachment. Just like war induces hatred between the closest relations.       

It is not an easy task to keep the audience captivated in an artificial environment dealing with war and sex. The director manages to do this with the help of the sound expert – Dmitry Tyulpanov (who doubles up as the male character in the couple). It is his ability to create brilliant echo and sound effects that the noise in the backdrop converts to music!

Tyulpanov even introduces thumping of iron mug and steel knife on wooden stool in a rhythmic pattern, which creates interest and lends music to the warring zone. It is on this music that the performers dance into the state of intolerance and hatred in a land where war is a constant feature.

There is intrusion of comedy in the state of abysmal dilemma where the human mind indulges in violence of great extent. By introducing the character of ‘superhero’, the playwright introduces the audience to the ‘fear of stranger’ that is present across the world. And by incorporating dialogues which are short but tragic-comic, the emphasis on the issue gets highlighted.   

Though it all appears to be a monumental play of power (between genders and humans), ultimately it crumbles down to the helplessness of those stuck in a war zone. Can we live in this scenario? If yes, for how long? The questions are the climax ofthe performance. 

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