Theatre Review: Dancing on Glass - a Poignant Play

July 14, 2010
Swapnil Bhatnagar

Now I've seen a number of plays but this one is easily the most poignant yet funny, ironic yet tragic one I have ever seen. One of the finest dark comedies I have seen, nay experienced. A definite must watch whether for the plot itself or for the powerhouse performances by the two actors taking the audience along their twisted and tinged-with-optimism-and-guilt lives.

Having whet your curiosity about the play I can't really leave you without sharing some more about the plot.

The story revolves around two people living away from their respective homes in the IT capital of the country, possibly Bangalore. From the short conversations with their parents you can almost imagine their situation. Unsatisfied with the cocoon of their safe and slow homes they moved to the city where it's neither safe nor slow, where they are just a part of the milieu. Where their work gives them no joy, just a means to survive. And to top it all, too afraid to show that they're scared, too proud to go back to happier places and times with their families around them.

Shankar and Megha share a strange connection in this speedy city. Shankar is Megha's boyfriend Pradeep's flatmate. A typical small town guy who likes the girl (platonic) and assumes that Pradeep and Megha would marry and 'live happily ever after'. For that matter, even Pradeep and Megha share a strange relationship due to their work. They work in a call centre that works at night. And the topsy-turvyness of their work life spills over to their personal life and the most they see of each other is in the stressful environment of their night shift workplace.

Tragedy strikes and Pradeep, after going sleepless at work for two days, crashes his bike and dies when a lorry tramples him and keeps going. The play is about the aftermath of this tragedy and the effect it has on Shankar and Megha.

As Megha delves into her emotions, first towards herself and Pradeep, the tragedy and then the faint linings of silver on her dark clouds in the form of the simple yet loyal Shankar, she faces the biggest challenge of her life - guilt for the little joys that were coming and her feelings for her past. The guilt of seemingly abandoning the memories of her past while embracing a faintly positive future.

Shankar, on his part, faces something he has never faced before - a forlorn and hurting woman. Struggling with his own feelings, his work, his loyalty to a dead friend who was a good person (hence impossible to hate and justify falling for his girlfriend), Shankar also faces something he never did earlier - a woman that is beyond an adolescent sexual caricature of his mind but a real human being with feelings, ambitions and thoughts. Though it wasn't mentioned in the play, it is probably the first time he was ever interacting with a woman to the extent of having feelings for her.

An excellent play with some amazing dialogues. Humour that counterbalances and, on occasion, underlines the dark tragic undertones. The two actors Abhishek Majumdar and Meghana Mundkur have really given a superlative performance. Though Abhishek's Shankar comes out the crowd favourite with his mannerisms and easy to identify with situations (afterall the play was being staged in front of people living similar lives in Bangalore), I personally thought that Meghana Mundkur 's Megha was a brilliant performance. She did not have the benefit of having too many funny lines but she ensured that her role did not sink into a purely sad and angry heroine. She portrayed her subdued anger, desperation and struggle with internal and external demons amazingly. A wonderful performance (As an aside I seem to recognize her from an earlier play by a group called Evam. A Monty Python short play. I'm not sure but I think she's the same actress)

The play has completed it's run in Rangashankara but I hope it comes back again. If you get a chance, do go and see it. Highly recommended.

PS: Whenever you go to see the play, do observe the markings on the stage. It'll be very interesting to interpret them.

PPS: The markings actually form a flow chart which most people with a IT background will understand. The decision box (the diamond/ rhombus)is strategically located in a spot where the protagonists face their realities and raise questions about their lives. And also where their lives first intersect.

PPPS: As the significance of the markings struck me, I had a vision of going high above the stage and zooming backwards while looking at the flowchart from a distance. The bigger image would be two flowcharts for both the people starting at their birth and going on till their death. These two flowcharts come together at a decision box, this phase of their life, a small homogenization of a single element of their life. Who knows, for all you know, their flowcharts (lives?)may diverge again after sometime. We don't know, but that's what makes it even more poignant.

Swapnil Bhatnagar is a Bangalore based blogger
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