Bangalore audiences, I find, are keen on being entertained with humour, and there is enough of punning and witty word-play to get the audience hooked to the situation.
Dramanon (Short for Dramatist Anonymous) is a theatre group whose fortunes I have followed ever since they "set up shop" in Bengaluru six years ago. I have reviewed every one of their productions, except for "Reservoir Dogs".
A scene from the play. Pic: Deepa Mohan
Their latest production is the intricately-wrought, witty play, "This", written by Melissa James Gibson. It is is a poignant comedy about four urban people, who, past the first blush of youth, are examining what the rest of their lives mean.
Jane is a single mother, who's lost her husband a year ago; Marell and Tom have a baby who "sleeps in 15-minute increments"; Alan, cursed with a perfect memory, is looking for a new start; and Jean-Pierre is a French doctor, invited as possible romantic material for Jane.
They begin the evening by playing a game, a kind of Yes-and-No question attempt, where the rules are quirky. If the question ends with a vowel, the answer should be "no", if a consonant, "yes", and if it ends with the letter ‘y', the answer should be "maybe." The game weaves its way through the interplay of the characters, including a sudden ignition of passion between Jane and Tom.
The 95 or 100 minutes of the play were gripping. Bangalore audiences, I find, are keen on being entertained with humour, and there is enough of punning and witty word-play to get the audience hooked to the situation. Thereafter, it was great to watch the serious stagecraft of the actors.
Sharanya Ramprakash. Pic: Deepa Mohan
Dramanon, I am glad to say, has truly come of age with this play. The choice of play is completely in line with what the audience wants; and the acting of the cast, and the dramatic timing, were well executed. Excellent direction has to be diagnosed by its lack of obvious presence, and Sharanya should take a bow for this.
Each of the actors and crew contributed in no small measure, to the resounding success of the play. Serena Punch's singing, as Marell; earned her applause on each occasion. Kavitha Babu was intense as Jane, and such intensity is hard to sustain on stage. Swetanshu's Tom was muted as compared to his usual on-stage presence. Nakul's Alan was very witty, and the dialogues delivered perfectly. Siddhartha Rao as Jeanne-Pierre did the French accent very well. Madhuri Isaacs Chauhan (keyboard) and Pradeep Gopal (Guitar) brought out the moods of the play well through their live music, an innovation by Dramanon.
Dramanon is a 10-year-old English theatre repertory started by students of Manipal University with branches in three cities. Dramanon Bangalore started in 2006. Productions include: "The Original Last Wish Baby", "Pizzazz", "Alarms and Excursions", "Sic" (also by Melissa Gibson), "Elling", and "Reservoir Dogs".
Sharanya Ramprakash, Deepanjan Dey , Nakul Bhalla and Swetanshu Bora are the core group, helped by a band of well-wishers and volunteers.
I would also mention the excellence of the crew; Sridhar and Karan, the production controllers; the lighting design by Harish Seshadri; the sound by Rohan Singhvi; and the backstage contributions of Mariam and Sirish.
The set and publicity design, both by Rupesh, deserves a big hand. After a long time of watching plays with minimal sets, it was a refreshing change to see a set with a multitude of props, evoking, in their detail and choice, the various characters' lives. I walked up to the stage after the play to examine, in detail, the stage setting, and was very impressed.
As usual, Dramanon's brochure was very well designed; both the colour and the black-and-white xeroxes used as little paper as possible, and the colour brochure came with a thoughtful slip of paper where interested audience members could leave their contact details, and comments - a great form of communication and feedback that many theatre groups forget about.
Obviously, word about Dramanon has got about, because there was nearly a full house, in spite of there being only one show (there will be two more shows in May. 2012.) The fact that most of the Bangalore team have been together since 2006, is a statement about their commitment to theatre.⊕