“Woyzeck” at Ranga Shankara

Koothu-p-Pattarai, a professional Tamil repertory group, staged “Woyzeck”, a German play bu George Buchner, at Ranga Shankara today, the 15th of December.

Woyzeck RS 151207 four

Franz Woyzeck is a soldier who has an illegitimate child by his mistress Marie, who is a prostitute. However, he thinks of her as his wife, and to make extra money to support them, performs menial jobs for his captain and also takes part in the medical experiments that the army doctor conducts. Once, the doctor tells him that he should eat nothing but peas…and Woyzeck begins to hallucinate. Meanwhile, Marie dallies with a handsome drum-major…and so the relationships, and the pressure on Woyzeck’s brain and emotions, develop…

The presentation was really excellent, with all the actors, particularly Somasundaram as Woyzeck and Aparna Gopinath as Marie, being outstanding in their delineation of their particular characters. The tortured mind of Woyzeck was so evocatively enacted..and the many facets of Marie..the greedy prostitute, the loving mother…were brought to life by Aparna. But everyone else in the cast did his or her part so well, too. I particularly liked the Malayali, with his mundu at “half-mast”, who talked about the wonder horse at the fair, who gave a welcome touch of comedy to an otherwise serious and often disturbing play.

Another part of the production that must be mentioned are the costumes. What a refreshing change it is to find really good-quality white uniforms and dresses…in fact, I read an inverted symbolism in the often-drunken soldiers and the women of easy virtue being clad in pristine white, and in only one scene were a black bag and a black coat introduced. The rest of the props were minimal, but very effective indeed…with just two benches, one sheet, and a representation of a water body on stage. Indeed, the women’s dresses as much as the accurate rendition by the actresses, conveyed the idea of women of easy virtue.

The lighting (Narayanaswamy)was also very effective and heightened the effect of the stress that the play lays on mental conditions. The video (dhu raa ki films), the projector work (XY vision, with Thambi Chozan operating the projector) was also well-handled

However, though the taped music (music operator, Nukman) was good, I could not really get the connection between the oft-repeated Sanskrit sloka and the narrative.

The last scene, though, was rather mystifying, though with the story we did understand what was meant by the tank of water. But when the story is only a translation, and even the title character’s name is not changed,why was the Indian flag used? Also mysterious was the character who was dressed like a Tamizh movie hero, who kept appearing and scowled menacingly at the people in the bordello…was he the “showman”?What was his role?

And I would request the cast to come forward and take a bow after the final curtain, and introduce themselves. When the audience have enjoyed a play, they would like to know who’s who, and show their appreciation! KPP, you need not have a lengthy post-play discussion, but I think introducing the cast would be a very good idea.

The brochure produced for the play is also very good. It clearly gives the names of the cast, talks about the play and about Koothu-p-Pattarai (KPP), and gives the address, phone nos. email id, and website of the group. Very professionally done. I would like them to add only one detail…do, always, give the time that the play will run. It is given in the Ranga Shankara play schedule, but it would be a good thing to include in the brochure, too. (The play ran for about 95 minutes.)

The play is in Tamizh, which obviously will limit audience numbers…but is strongly recommended for fans of serious theatre. Thank you for a great evening, KPP!

Woyzeck women

“Woyzeck” will have two more shows, one at 3.30 pm and one at 7.30 pm, at Ranga Shankara on Sunday the 16th Dec 2007.

The play is NOT suitable for children.

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