The meaning of stage is exciting enough; but when the stage becomes metaphorical…it is ecstasy. Italian author Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author published in 1921, is a play that suspends its readers in this ecstasy through the medium of metatheatre. Pirandello intended to foreground theatre as an illusory form of art and expose its conscious techniques of deception. Through the framework of metatheatre, the fourth wall is broken only to reveal the construction of that fourth wall. In the hands of Benjamin Gilani and his troupe of actors who adapted and performed this literary piece on the stage of Godrej Dance Theatre in February 2014, this metatheatrical intent was maintained and achieved successfully- albeit this time the audience got a glimpse of what entails a theatrical production that is insipid, amateurish and mediocre. So for both the creators and receivers of theatre, here are some lessons for a lifetime…
o We agree that all the world’s a stage but that does not mean all the people are actors. So, when you want an actor….you have to make efforts to find one!
A phenomenal and seasoned actor in Benjamin Gilani and Trishla Patel alone had the potential to burn the stage with emotions, nuances and impact. Accustomed body language that gathers the character within its fold, expressions that are pronounced just enough to look natural, pronunciations and voice projection synced to suit clarity of communication and the ability to make an imagined character real by manifesting the belief yourself. Gilani and Patel possess the matter that matters to be an actor. Therefore, the mask of actors that the other men and women (and children) held on stage pretending both to themselves as well as to the audience to be actors was exaggerated as farcical, deceptive and unprofessional. When most of the dialogues are attributed to the main character, reactions and empty time on stage become crucial cues for other actors on stage. However, what underlines the amateurish actors is the absence of understanding that there cannot be an empty moment on stage. Ironically, characters pretending to be actors on stage forgot to hold their characters.
o Minimal set design is a contemporary evolution- but it is NOT a euphemistic term for Poor production.
Agreed, the theatre of the absurd demands a certain emptiness of space to visually and metaphorically represent the empty realities of life and language. Sometimes, the empty spaces on stage are deliberately created only to fill it with the imaginative prowess of the script and the actor’s speech. In this production however, the stage space sustained to remain just that…physical stage space. It failed to transport the audience into the house on the ranch in the countryside or even the shady, underbelly of a brothel.
o Sex sells…does not mean you sell it for free!
The medium of theatre or television or film has long been the victim of sensationalism and scandal. However, when art evolves, it uses the same scheme of sex and skin to provoke thoughts and reflections. The idea is not to deny its existence and significance but to use art to investigate why. Unfortunately, in this production, sex and seduction got reduced to just that. It became a mere statement of boldness, a cheap farcical form of humour, a method to shock the audience, a mask for the non-actors to veil their inabilities. You do not connect with the audience when you ‘show’ them reality, but rather when you help them ‘shape’ their reality. The same short-sighted function of exposing inadequacy was performed by the character of Aunt Shahnaz whose key to the heart of the audience was supposed to be her repertoire of foul language.
All this eventually, unfortunately, unwittingly left the audience in search of a performance…a real one!