I recently watched a series of ten-minute plays as part of a popular theatre festival. Most of them were long and sour. The underlying contribution, it seemed, came from scripting.
Not to say there weren’t any impressive moments. Imagine a satire of Modi in which the central character keeps rotating a globe in his hand; in another play, a fugitive sculptor, who has always wanted to shape up his art, is shown to be helplessly hiding amidst… giant rocks; in a mime about a budding actor, the character establishment is done with the actor competing with his peers for an oscillating spotlight – an exposition so concise and brilliant; a long monologue of a boy seeks to break the monotony by holding rhethoric conversations with the audience. All reaffirms the presence of a director or writer behind these plays in the festival.
The real problem I saw was the epidemic use of sexual innuendos. As if each play infected the next, snide comments and acts kept showing up in circles of yellow and gels of blue and green. At the risk of sounding prudish, I must say it was disappointing to hear one-line sex jokes and hints being sprinkled from the stage like holy water. And the young audience, seated in a dark atmosphere in the chill of the night (or Hitachi), were in splits, leaving the elders and white hairs clueless.
All these would have been harmless had they chosen a context warranting the innuendos. Rather, the plays lacked identity, setting. They were not cohesive. Where were the warp and weft of scriptwriting? Pick the line from the seventh minute and twentieth second of the play and say it aloud – it would still sound entertaining, which means the performances were essentially stand-up comedies masquerading as drama.
Some plays, on the other hand, portrayed purple prose in an attempt to sway the audience, but ended up like literary novels.
And the lifeline of scriptwriting – conflict – was nowhere to be seen, except in very few plays. What is story without conflict? I don’t suggest placing Goliath against David; conflict has various forms and features.
While it is indeed appreciable that audience are laughing and clapping and not gasping at these sexual remarks (which would not have been the case a decade ago), it is also dispiriting to realise that the audience come across as a facile and philistine group, even if only momentarily.
“Well, if that is what they want, why deny them?” My friend said, clapping at a character who wanted to blow the pipe of his friend.