"When the plot was first pitched to me, I knew it was something I had never done before. Something I was sure the Indian audience had never experienced in theatre before. And there was my reason to become part of Re:play.
What started off as exercises of the mind and body slowly became intricate pieces in the sketches of the play. Everyday was a new beginning, because each sketch demanded its unique approach and ambience. We started taking Yoga classes to see how much more we could exploit of our bodies.
From a pathetic start I went onto learning how to control breathing and commanding the body. It was one of the most refreshing experiences I've ever had. Each sketch was designed to fit the stretch of each performers ability, so every piece was only as good as ourselves. And with the contrast between the sketches being quite stark, I had a challenging time switching moods, sweating it out and wiping it off.
The idea of Re:play being a duet was the second challenge, in terms of energy and mindfulness. To be a performer and yet not be 'The character', that was the subtlety we had to work against! Directors can be tough!
Spatial awareness was by far the toughest task, with objects and people at such close proximity we had to constantly watch our every move.
Re:play was always an experimental piece to me and I hope it wins hearts and leaves the audience with a kind of nostalgia that only comes with this genre of intimate immersive theatre." - Manav Chidambaran, performer, Re:play
"When I was approached by Aruna to be a part of a new play she was creating, I was overjoyed to say the least. Little did I know what I was in for. One by one, the bombs were dropped - there was no script in hand, the script would not be our starting point, the performers would devise the sketches first and it would be a physical, movement-based performance. And so, we were introduced to the concept of immersive theatre. The play became a performance, the director became a deviser, the actor became a performer and the stage became a space.
After attending my first Re:play workshop, there was really no looking back. I was introduced to a theatrical world where sounds, movements and objects dominated and where dialogues took a backseat. Devising the sketches, true to the theme of Re:play, was like playing a game. We would be given tasks to perform with ground rules and some objects and be asked to work around them. Needless to say, the process was a lot of fun and we would look forward to devising everyday!
Re:play is all about the movement and being present in the moment. It asks a lot from the performers physically and mentally and even though being a dancer helped me, it was quite a task making my fluid movements more defined. With Re:play, I entered an enchanting world of traditional Indian games and learnt how so much can be depicted by using the games as a base. Re:play also taught me to listen to objects, the sounds they create and how they can make or break a particular sketch.
It was a wonderful feeling to watch the performance slowly take shape from scratch and even more exciting to know I had a role to play in that process. Aruna made us explore different avenues, break out of our comfort zones and through her innovative exercises and insightful anecdotes from London, she geared us for this unique performance.
I'm thrilled to be a part of Team Re:play and to be working with Aruna, Ujwal and Manav. The butterflies and the nerves are speeding up as we approach our premiere. The performance is dynamic, interesting and powerful to say the least. The performance is not your usual play where the audience play passive spectators; they will have a bigger role to play. Curious? To know more, join us at the C.P Ramaswamy Iyer foundation on the 19,20 and 21 of September and Spaces, Besant Nagar on the 28 and 29 of September." - " - Supraja Narayanaswamy,Performer,Re:play
Register for Re:play at Spaces: http://www.visualrespiration.com/replay-register.html
We may call them by various local names, but traditional Indian games hold a special place in our childhood memories, whether they be indoor board games like Ludo, and Snakes and Ladders, or outdoor ones like Kho Kho and Kabaddi. What happens when the
various elements of these games become instruments of
We let Aruna Ganesh Ram show us her brainchild Re:Play, an Immersive Theatre act, inspired by traditional Indian games, which will premiere in Chennai.
“Motivated by Immersive Theatre in London, I came up with the concept of using different elements of Indian traditional games as a device in storytelling as well as an intricate part of the plot. A ‘work-in-progress version of it was staged in London after I collaborated with artists there. Now, after different phases of development, it is finally ready to be shown to audiences in Chennai,” says Aruna, who has been involved with the theatre world for the last 10 years while leading ‘Landing Stage’. After taking a break to do her master’s degree in Advanced Theatre Practice from the Central School of Speech and Drama, she has founded ‘Visual Respiration’, her new theatre outfit.
What makes Immersive Theatre unique is spontaneity at all levels. “We don’t follow the conventional way of starting with a story then making it into a script, the development process is more organic. immersive plays need a trigger, and the narrative sketches are developed in stages through experiment and involvement of the group. For example, once I carried marbles to the studio. The sound they made, their movement, and how they interacted with the space, provided us the trigger for a narrative,” explains Aruna, who has been supported by Manasi Subramaniam in writing the script.
The concept might sound simple and easy, but it took a lot of research to give it shape. “We collaborated with a Chennai-based company, Kreeda Games, who make traditional Indian games. Some parts of the play have been based on the feedback we got from their customers which was to do with adding that much needed human touch,” Aruna says.
There are three other actors on stage, apart from herself, namely, Manav Chidambaran , Supraja Narayanaswamy and Ujwal Nair. Aruna promises that this is not one of those plays where audiences are expected to sit and watch passively. Re:Play plans to engage with their audience during the performance.
So how agreeable will Chennai’s theatre goers be with this new way of story telling? “I think it will be an
interesting experience for Chennai audiences. We are excited to see how they react to it,” says Aruna.
Re:Play premieres on September 19, 20 and 21 at the C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation (Alwarpet), followed by a public show on September 28 and 29 at Spaces (Besant Nagar)
Anne Bogart classifies gesture to be behavioral as well as expressive. Behavioral gestures are descriptive, everyday gestures, while expressive gestures express an inner state, an idea or a value. Bogart also illustrates gestures having a beginning, middle and an end.
Through the process of Re-play, working with gestures has been a significant part of the process. With the use of both static and dynamic gestures, the various sketches have been composed. Given that the performance does not take place in a conventional theatre space, the composition of these gestures are being considered in a 360 degree fashion.
Once I had conceptualised Re:play, I spent a lot of time reading up resource material on the games through a variety of sources. Given that almost all traditional games have been passed on through generations, I came across multiple versions of the same games. In fact, the same game is played in different ways and called different names across the country. This is also what made my research interesting. From finding out mythological connections and stories to games being relevant in today's 21st century, there was a lot to learn from.
From the very beginning, I had the support of Manasi Subramaniam as a dramaturg and writer. We would try and orchestrate material in a way that it became interesting from a point of view of performance. I would also take in some of this material to the studio, work with collaborators and explore possibilities.
Once we had a structure in place, we then contacted Kreeda Games, a company dedicated to the promotion of traditional games and sought their support from a research point of view. Through the support of Kreeda, one of the most significant things we discovered were personal stories of people who have played these games through time. Research with Kreeda is still ongoing, for further development of the show.
The C.P.Ramaswami Aiyar foundation promotes traditional and folk arts. They had published a book called Traditional folk games of Tamilnadu. I contacted the author of the book, Prof. V Balambal who was ever willing to support this initiative. In my meetings and conversations with her, I gained a lot of insights, which have helped shape this performance.
Research has always been the foundation to performance. Re:play is a highly research intensive process. Transforming research content to performative action has been the most enjoyable process over the last 6 months, apart from the fact that I pester people to tell me about all the traditional Indian games that they have played over the years.
Re:play premieres on the 19, 20 and 21 of September at the C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation(Alwarpet), followed by a public showcasing on the 28 and 29 of September at Spaces (Besant Nagar) in Chennai. Both performances are only on a registration basis, the details of which we will put up next week. The performance will also tour Bangalore and Hyderabad over October and November. Looking forward to Re:play times.
It was definitely 15 years ago when I last played Parcheesi (Ludo variant) or Paramapadham (Snakes and Ladders). Now, in the context of creating performance out of the games, playing with the games was more critical than playing the games themselves. When I initially started devising Re:play, I brought all the games, their objects and rules into the rehearsal studio, spread them around in the space and sat in the centre, just watching the many objects, elements, patterns and textures.
The metallic dice, the cowrie shells and the tamarind seeds were all elements waiting to be explored. I tossed around the Pallanguzhi box for over an hour trying to create different rhythms and sounds with it. Based on these sounds and rhythms of the box, I would then scribble down associations, which would become a base to start creating. Similarly, over 40 marbles would be strewn around the studio and I would watch them roll away. It was quite magical and fascinating.
Another exciting discovery was the many patterns of the board games and their possibilities. I would draw out these patterns on the floor and use them as movement guides to figure out spatial architecture and topography.
While working with performers in Chennai, we would perform tasks that involved the rules of the games or the objects/patterns and through the process of performing the task, we would make discoveries about movement themes, spatial possibilities and potential narratives.
Re:play has been completely devised in such fashion, where objects, patterns, structures, rules, colours and textures would inspire multiple starting points for performance. It's been a great experience devising original work, playing with the games, making discoveries and creating performance.
Re:play premieres on the 19, 20 and 21 of September at the C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation(Alwarpet), followed by a public showcasing on the 28 and 29 of September at Spaces (Besant Nagar) in Chennai. Both performances are only on a registration basis, the details of which we will put up next week. The performance will also tour Bangalore and Hyderabad over October and November
Immersive theatre is about experiencing a piece of theatre as opposed to just watching it. One can argue that watching something can also be an experience. Immersive theatre goes beyond that and seeks to engage multiple senses. This multi sensorial experience of immersive theatre immerses you in a new world, whose rules are slightly different. Through the process of immersion, you cease to become a passive spectator. The concepts of the traditional proscenium, the stage, that divides space between the performers and the audience no longer exists in such kind of work. A new relationship is sought between the performers and audience.
Re:play is one such immersive performance with a dynamic relationship between the performers and the audience, the combination of which influences the performance. Through the duration of the performance, the audience will be challenged with simple, yet unique tasks that will shape the way they experience the performance. An element of play is involved, again with a set of rules that the audience will be grasp onto, through the performance.
So what is Re:play?
In a line, Re:play is a devised performance duet inspired by traditional Indian games. I have always been fascinated by traditional games and grew up playing many of these. A year ago, I came by an article in the paper about how we no longer play any of these games, given that most of us have moved on to become a part of the digital space. Suddenly, I started composing visuals in my head about how the different elements from traditional games could be composed into performance. I remember picking up a pen and scribbling out the patterns of these board games and how they can spatially be reconstructed in a performance context. This was the beginning.
I spent over 3 months in the rehearsal studio in London working with collaborators who were dramaturgs, movement practitioners and performers, to explore the possibilities that these games lend themselves to. Given that we were dealing with games, an element of participation was a key consideration. Re:play asks of the audience a bit more than just being a passive spectator. This is what makes Re:play an immersive performance. A lot in the performance is based on chance happenings, so one may not be in control at all times, but one is in control of his/her experience through the performance.
It was really exciting to discover how Traditional Indian games have been played in different contexts through time. The performance also explores how these games and their elements are relevant to us by going through a journey that evokes themes of mythology, contemporary events, memory, Indian History as well as Indian folklore.
Research into Traditional Indian games reveal links of various games to events in Mythology and Indian history. From the story of Shakuni challenging the Pandavas to a game of dice to Chanakya strategising a game of Chaturanga for warfare to the game of strategy played between the Tigers and Goats to Abhimanyu's struggle inside the Chakravyuha inspiring the game of Kabaddi, the performance is an aural and visual journey of the sounds, textures, stories and rhythms of Indian games.
Re:play strings together these stories, events and anecdotes into a theatre performance. MOvement and gesture have been inspired from the games as well as their stories.
Come experience Re:play,come experience Indian Games,come experience a powerful piece of performance
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In this blog space, we talk about performance processes, interdisciplinary practices and various ways of creating performance and engaging audiences.