Theatre Nisha – my first experience of a play in Chennai

I finally got to see a play directed and staged by Theatre Nisha at the Alliance de Francaise.
The programme was actually a rendition of four short stories, unfortunately, I missed the first one and seated myself just in time for the start of the second one.
This story dealt with lesbians and how the society is responsible for some of them becoming so. It was a daring theme to be played to a Chennai audience no doubt, and though the acting for this story was way below par, they did make us sit on the edge of our seats, because of the brilliant screenplay. The story was told through the eyes of a small girl sent to live with one of her aunts and the rest unfolds from there.
What struck me most was the use of language to display emotion, the rythmical lines were written to strike a chord in the audience, but it was a discordant chord for me, I do not want to hear words such as “languishing eyes and alabastor skin not-withstanding, she was spurned in favour of gossamer shirts…” from a character who is supposed to be thirteen years old.
So while I appreciated the subject as well as the screenplay over-all, the language came across as forced and the actors seemed uncomfortable with the play overall. But kudos to the director to have selected this topic!
The next story was about a painter and his fifteen-year muse, the actor was superb here and when he began to sing, did capture the audience’s attention with his melodies.
The last story was the best of the lot, it was about the musings of a woman on courtesans, in particular her neighbours. This was a monologue and unless the actor is skilled, the audience can easily lose their attention, but the actress playing this was experienced and her use of tone and modulation(ah, that long lost skill) alongwith a witty and at-times catty dialogue held us suspended in the theatre, straining to listen to her, laughing at some of her atrocious statements “Did she think that I had done an M.Ed to teach her daughter on what to wear for whom, pyjamas for the Punjabis, lenghas for the Gujaratis??” ending with the statement,”Oh, it must be another apartment!”, the typical Indian way of explaining away blunders in society when one marks on a well-known person’s behaviour was par comparison.
Definitely a troupe to watch out for – Theatre Nisha.

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