The Serious Matter of Play Acting
It has been three months of gruelling fun. The exhaustion and the irritation of having to “again” go to rehearsals do not seem to be quite so large in Rumi’s memory nor do the weeks of “why did I agree to this” seem important anymore. The night is gone, the makeup is off, the lights have been dismantled, the action has stopped. The hum is again drumming along quite nicely.
What does still remain strong is a feeling that it was like a step back into childhood. Not quite a deja vu. Just a sense that this was travelled ground, familiar from a more innocent past. The garage in Tutan’s house was their weekend care centre. On one side was the make believe world of Shonaton and Sufia, and on the other was the real time world of the players. Under the eagle eye of the weekend care leader, each person took their turn on stage and pretended to be who they were not.
Tulsi was worried that she was not quite getting the “dehaati” look, would it be better if she sat with her knees up? Or down? Would the Hospital props be ready on time for her to practise with them? What if she could not move her arms on “the night” with the “drip” attached to it??
Lena of course was an old hand at the game, but still not quite getting the “Aww Bishtuuu! Bishtuuuuu! “ right. Did she sound like a bus driver’s wife? How does a bus driver’s wife sound? Is it make believe? Or is it real,? Is there actually an accent to adopt?
Chhobi was unsure about her hands. What does one do on stage when one has long gaps and cannot really be standing up straight staring into space? Even a play has to be realistic, after all! Perhaps she should pretend to clean the room. Maybe do a little bit of dusting – that would make it look real. Would it?
And so it went. Bakul fretted over how to pretend that Sufia’s hair was knotted when it was really silky smooth. Dibsy memorised everyone’s lines and fretted over whether the scene changeovers were going to take too long.
Amazingly, it was only Pakhi, who was not as far from her mandatory make believe days as the others, who was in no way interested in this elaborate weekly ritual of make believe that the adults were all so engrossed in. It was hard to get her into the garage, and even harder to get her to emote. But on the night, she pulled it off magnificently on stage. The “real” make believe kicked in. Obviously she knew what was real, and how to cry and how to make others believe. With not an ounce of stage fright, she walked on stage and her voice even trembled and hung on the air in the lonely wail of a frightened and panicked child. Perhaps, because to her, it was not “art” or a “game” just a world that she still inhabits in her days of dreaming?
What elevates acting, and drama to the level of Art, and differentiates it from the dress ups and play all children indulge in? Why is one looked upon with indulgence, and allowed to be private and the other taken apart scene by scene, delivery by delivery by an audience? Why is one a game, and intensely personal, while the other is public domain, and intensely intellectual? Why is one face paint designed for fantasy and the other is make up applied by make up artists?
Even the terminology is reminiscent of day dreaming and pretend. The actors are all “playing a part” They have to make the audience “believe” in the transient reality of their .. dare one say it… game?
Sids made spread sheets with numbers and names and changeovers for sound control. Piklu pored over “light” instructions in a fevered frenzy. Tutan grew a beard in order to look like a bus driver. How meaningful was it all, really? Did it really matter? Should it have been fun, or was it really a solemn matter, needing intense, stressful, concentrated attention?
Of course it was serious. A couple of hundred people came and sat in a darkened hall watching the emotions of a dozen players on stage. They felt drawn into the story, or not, as was their taste. They became one with the “play”. Or not. And at the end of it all it was a piece of Art served up for fun. Was it not?
So what makes a daydream into reality? What makes play-acting into acting? What makes a game into Art?
Thank you to Rudrajit for photos. For more photos go to : Dournama Sydney photos by Rudrajit