Comedy of errors

Comedy of errors

Play within the play

Comedy of errors

Interacting with a small group of people is easy, but the real test of one’s communication skill takes place before a large audience. While going up on stage and delivering the lines in front of hundreds of people might seem scary for many, some professional theatre artistes in the City tend to overcome tough situations on stage with ease.

Such smooth reactions from actors can only come with much practice and dedication. Once perfected, the art of handling a blunder without letting the audience know comes in handy. 

Abhishek, actor and co-founder of ‘WeMove Theatre’, says, “One of our major goof-ups was when the actor (in the play ‘E=MC2’) finished his scene and had to go back stage to change and come back for the next scene, but there was a delay in him reaching the backstage. This simultaneously delayed everything else and the stage was empty and silent for some time. Everyone was perplexed at that moment. That’s when two other actors improvised on stage and kept the audience engaged.” 

Forgetting lines on stage is bound to happen to anyone and in any level of theatre. In fact, Abhishek adds that if these don’t happen, it won’t be called theatre. According to him, it is the body language of an actor that tells if something is not right on stage, which is a major indication to fellow actors.

   “This wordless form of communication develops over time and that is what we call co-ordination,” he adds. 

On what happens when props go missing or are damaged, he says, “The problem arises with smaller props like tooth brushes or paint brushes. We need to be really careful. In one of the plays, in a climax scene, the protagonist had to go to the side wings and get a polythene bag with food and give it to a beggar. Before the play started, he made sure that the packet was there. However, when the time came the packet was missing. He went back on stage and made up a line along the lines of — ‘I have ordered your food online, and it will be delivered soon, so wait till then’. That was an indication to the volunteers that the packet was missing and they had to replace it. And when the packet was replaced, he took out his phone and acted as if it was delivered so he went to the side wings and got the parcel!”

Pointing out that the actors have to be prompt and have a presence of mind to communicate within the group without making the audience aware of the blooper, Prashanth Nair, co-founder of ‘Tahatto’, says, “One of the advantages theatre offers is that if you don’t reveal your error on stage, the audience will not know and they will see only what you want them to.

There is no need for any extra cues thanks to the live and charged medium of theatre. When you have worked together for a long time, actors can cover up mistakes easily. Ideally, there should be gestures to indicate that there is something wrong but I think, organically the mind is trained to figure out mistakes.”

Recalling an incident , Prashanth says, “Once, one of the actors went to the green room, which was upstairs, after one of his scenes and did not remember that he had to come back on stage. There were two actors on stage who had to work on their dialogues and make up for it.

It was quite funny; they had to extend the scene for 5 minutes. They kept improvising and were not even sure if the other actor was going to come back at all. They had no clue if this scene was going to end or not.”    

Ranji, co-founder of ‘Yours Truly Theatre’, says, “Being on stage as a performer is all about dealing with errors.

A play should not become so mechanical and systematic that there is no goof-up.”  These, he adds, make the play better and keep the actors on their toes.

“They show an actor’s ability to deal with ambiguous situations and what we call, the ‘truth of the moment’ (a reverse piece that happens). Theatre is all about dealing with such situations. I encourage actors to create new moments and to improvise. When such
situations occur, actors need to have tremendous presence of mind and an improvisational quality in them. These scenes can themselves move ahead and become a part of the show,” he adds.

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