Re:play is about relationships. Relationships between different people within the space. This relationship starts and evolves through the course of the performance. Facilitated by the performers, Re:play explores relationships between two people, between the performers and the audience, between the members of the audience and the relationship one encounters with themselves.
The design of the performance facilitates an intimate spatial construct, where the performers can story tell, eye to eye. This makes the environment more personal and enables audiences to do more than just watch a performance.
Viewpoints of space and time were the first considerations in devising Re-play. Topography, using floor patterns, helped in exploring both geometric as well as organic design possibilities. Moving through the space in patterns of the board games guided spatial design and construction. This helped in gauging the size and shape of the space, influencing the artistic process critically. The concept of intimacy in spatial design emerged here, making the performance immersive in nature, by creating a shared space. The breaking down of the proscenium having occurred early on in the process demanded a new audience-performer relationship. Richard Schechner talks about this in the context of environmental practice, connecting notions of encounter between audience, performance and space.
The kind of work I'm talking about can't happen if one territory belongs to the audience and another to the performers. The bifurcation of space must be ended. The final exchange between performers and audience is the exchange of space, spectators as scene-makers as well as scene watchers.(Schechner in Machon 2013: 32)
Schechner explains that the exchange of stimuli - either sensory or cognitive is the root of theatre. When this exchange happens through multiple senses, in the absence of bifurcation of space, then new relationships are possible, body contact can occur and a sense of shared experience can be engendered. (Schechner 1994: xxiv) Re:play considered this in its spatial design, fostering and challenging new relationships between multiple elements in the space. Re:play's spatial design enabled audience to be seated in small groups, around the performer. The audience was also lit in the performance, which made them a part of the space.
It was then an ongoing discovery of the potential relationships that are possible between all elements in the space; objects, people, voices, textures, sounds and the combinations of these. With an element of spontaneity contained within the performance as well, new relationships, dynamic in nature were forged through the process of the performance.
The challenge was in considering the many relationships in the context of immersive theatre, where the audience is placed at the heart of the work to feel and undergo a visceral experience, to be immersed in a world whose rules are different, to be submerged in an alternate medium, where all the senses are engaged and manipulated (Machon: 2013: 22) Re:play was an experience with different rules, rules that audience members discovered through the course of the performance and rules that were flexible, which could be broken or held based on the discretion of the people within the space. In this process, people discovered each other as well.
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
In this blog space, we talk about performance processes, interdisciplinary practices and various ways of creating performance and engaging audiences.