For most of the last two years, Bengaluru-based actor and playwright Spatica Ramanujam was feeling restricted due to the inability to mount a new play. This feeling, of course, was near-universal for theatre people across the world. Some of them, however, started making and acting in video plays. But Spatica, the artistic director of the Mukha Mugam theatre group, was among the laggards when it came to the stage to screen transition. It took her a while.
“To sit in a rehearsal room with actors, throwing around ideas — that’s what I am used to. That’s my comfort zone. So, not being able to do that felt weird,” she says, “I was absolutely at a loss on what to do. So, I just watched and observed.”
When the pandemic showed no signs of dissipating, she told herself she has to learn to work with the constraints. She did not immediately set out to write another play. Instead, she joined Mahesh Dattani’s playwriting workshop. Then, she started acting in video plays written by others. She was slowly getting back into the groove.
“In a way, the pandemic helped me broaden my comfort zone. So, that was something good,” she says.
As the lockdowns gradually eased, Spatica had an idea for a play. She remembered her theatre school days in London and Berlin, where one of her teachers introduced a 19th-century French play, Ubu Roi, which was a parody of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Inspired from this, she created A View From Above, a social satire that looks at the lives and relationships of people in power. “The French play falls under the genre of social grotesque, where everything — the acting, costumes, and other things, is exaggerated. In my adaptation, I have tried to keep it in a realistic realm. Having said that, you will still find some absurd and surreal elements in the play.”
The one-hour play premiered at Courtyard Koota, a community art space in the city. It was staged at Alliance Francaise de Bangalore on May 8 and at Ranga Shankara on May 15.
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This post was written by Praveen Sudevan.
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