A trip through guilt

A trip through guilt

A theatre experience with sound effects and actors who astound the audience with their dialogue delivery and expressions, is what everyone hopes a play would be. This is where ‘The Train Driver’, a play written by Athol Fugard and directed by Anik Ghosh, fits in well. Staged at Jagriti Theatre in the City recently, this play unfolds layers of meanings and throws hidden tales from reality at one’s face like none other.

As the lights come on, you find mattresses, with rubbish on them, neatly placed on the stage; and the sound of a train.

As the play progresses, one realises that the mattresses are in fact graves, and the story unveils an incident.

This plot, which is inspired from a true story starts off with Roelf Visagie, a train driver, who runs over a suicidal black woman and her baby strapped to her back. Stressed out with the incident, his life seems to be altered by it. Roelf goes to the graveyard where the victim might be buried, in search of her body. Surrounded by the guilt, while Roelf is looking for the body, he meets Simon, a gravedigger who buries ‘the ones with no names’. In his talks with the elderly man, Roelf slowly gains a better understanding of himself and his people till he is able to find the catharsis he needs to finally forgive himself.

The play has Rohit Dave and Abraham Karimpanal playing Roelf Visagie and Simon Hanabe respectively. ‘The Train Driver’ is a play about the guilt of the privileged few, the suffering of others who are not so privileged and about ‘hopelessness’ for certain people and a nation at large. Anik, the director of the play says he worked on this script, because it was intense and well-written. “Our first play was a Fugard play ‘The Island’, among others. Somebody mentioned this play, and I wanted to work on it. I thought it was a very emotional piece.

Thematically, it connects to everyone — the theme of hopelessness.” He adds that considering the number of people who die on the railway tracks in the country, this was something anyone could relate to. “Fugard made the story universal. Our group took the liberty of not having a white man enact the role of Roelf, because we didn’t feel that it really made a difference,” he says.

Rohit Dave, the actor who played the white man in despair, says that the way the character has been devised is the speciality of this role. “This being one of the works from Fugard’s post-apartheid writing, is not just about black and white. While the black and the white communities are highligted, one can also see the attitudinal shift that has happened.” He adds that it was challenging to do this “quantum of a work”. “It requires a lot of immersion into the role. This is one of the biggest roles I’ve done and it is different,” he says.

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