The energy in this performance of Bedtime Story is palpable. The beginning and ending work extremely well. It must have been a hugely difficult task to edit Nagakar’s play to a reasonable length for Sydney audiences.
The undoubted star is Avantika Tomar who plays princess Draupadi, a challenging role, with great skill and credibility. Tomar injects drama into her performance without tipping into melodrama. She is a forceful presence on the stage; and has perfect diction and voice projection. I thought her performance faultless.
Other standout performances are by Neel Banerjee and Suparna Mallick who have charisma as well as that elusive quality of stage presence and the ability to make the role their own. Also Rhea Daithankar and the narrator/commentator who added his own unique dimension to the play. “Krishna” is portrayed with suitable impudence.
The excellent creative use of space had performers popping up from unexpected places, which kept the audience on their toes.
While some actors had convincing facial expressions and body language, their diction and/or voice projection let them down, making it difficult for the audience to hear their lines.
The first half of the play might be somewhat confusing at times for those not familiar with the stories of the Mahabharata. Perhaps the narrator/commentator, who already interacts with the audience, could provide more commentary on the myths and backstory, to complement the visual projections? The second half is tight, focused and easier to follow. It had great impact.
Who knows, maybe the play might encourage people to read some of the Mahabharata, which is now even available on ibooks? It’s great to see the India-Australia connection growing and developing through the arts.
Congratulations to Director Joyraj Bhattacharjee, to Neel Banerjee and to all the cast and crew for bringing a new exciting dimension to Australian theatre.
Sharon Rundle June 2015
Photo: Sharon Rundle and Kiran Nagarkar in 2012 at UWS
When I first read the play I sort of got the gist, but from day to day practice it has begun to emerge as masterfully scripted with cutting edge insight into the dark side of human nature that dresses up in conniving niceness and charm to serve greed, ambition and blind personal interest at the cost of true advancement.
It is a play that strips bare to reveal the cruelty, injustice, temporal greed, exploitation, deception and abuse of ill gotten privilege dressing itself up as something good, the same as found in today’s world and which continues to undermine humanity’s true entitlements of happiness and the things that really matter.
It may appear trite to say, but is true: No-one really wins. Everyone loses a war. And that for a long time to follow. The aftermath being a hard and painful way to undergo some measure of awakening from spoon fed carrot and stick fantasies that keeps us all chained to the marketing ploys of unscrupulous and sophisticated thieves that invariably seek to rule, but lack the qualifications that count.
Kiran Nagarkar’s BEDTIME STORY transcends the ages and holds a mirror up to human conscience for those with the guts to confront the pain of truth and the extent to which they too are either to some extent guilty or have been beguiled. Or both.
I sincerely hope we actors can do the play justice.
Nautanki Theatre takes its work very seriously and aims for excellence in approaching the subjects for their plays and performers. Despite being on shoe string budget they aim for the best. Selection of good venues, and the quality of performance is always in their thoughts. They have a permanent venue completely dedicated for the performing arts. The lighting and set designs are innovative and their quality is not compromised. This theatre company does not hesitate to get the best person for the job even if the person has to be brought from overseas. There is clarity of purpose and thought process in all that is done here.
This is the 3rd production that I am involved with in this group. The actors and performers are respected and well treated. They are encouraged to perform and given a free hand and have their say in their understanding their characters. The group gels well without being overbearing and still leaving space to expand. I have seen some very good actors and some very good learners in this group. The facilities are at the rehearsal venue are good and kept clean. Actors are not under undue pressure from directors and fellow actors. This is a good group to work with and it is a place for any level of talent. The values are kept simple and the focus is on the forthcoming productions and bigger horizons.
Fourteen days before the first show and I am already quite certain of having withdrawal symptoms post June 6th. That’s how much I have liked the whole experience of working with fellow actors from the play, the crew at Nautanki Theatre and most of all, our fabulous director.
Bedtime Story has had tremendous impact on me as an actor and definitely reinforces some of my beliefs in and about life. It is one of the more challenging plays I have done and the fact that I am playing three characters, each of them very distinct, doesn’t make my job any easier. For those who are familiar with the Mahabharatha, I am playing Draupadi from the epic, her corresponding modern day Hindu character named Rupali and Muslim character named Salma. I have pushed myself as an actor in this play and am certainly doing things that a month back I would not have considered myself to be capable of. The parallel plots in the play, the religious and political undertone in them, and the deconstruction of an age old epic and what it means to an Avantika Tomar of 2015 have all sort of grown on me.
The journey has most definitely been evolutionary and I have enjoyed sharing the road with Joyraj Bhattacharjee and some amazing actors. From a Hindi names pronunciation class to a moving dead body to effortless (well, not really) lifting of 60kg ‘weight’ to intense discussions on secularism, this journey would not have been as much fun without you guys. I owe a lot to all of you and look forward to working with you soon.
Nautanki Theatre presents
TOBA TEK SINGH
by Shruti Ghosh
–: Based on a short story of Saadat Hassan Manto :–
17th Jan 2015 at 2.30pm/ 18th Jan 2015 at 1pm /19th Jan 2015 at 7.30pm
The New Theatre, Newtown
Director: Shruti Ghosh
Cast: Shruti Ghosh and Neel Banerjee
The play Toba Tek Singh has been adapted from a short story with the same name by Saadat Hassan Manto. Manto moved to the newly formed country called Pakistan after the independence of India from British rule in 1947. The story (published in 1955) is set in the backdrop of an imaginary event just after independence when both the governments of India and Pakistan decide to exchange the lunatics in the asylums on either side of the border on the basis of their religion. According to the agreement, the Hindu inmates from the asylum in Pakistan are to be shifted to India and vice versa. The story revolves around one Punjabi-Sikh lunatic from the Lahore asylum named Toba Tek Singh who is soon to be sent to India as part of the exchange. The story unearths the absurd reality of the partition of India based on religion and the tragedy that befell the teeming millions that had to leave their homeland due to it. Currently around the world when ethnic cleansing and religious fundamentalism is on the rise, when people are displaced from their roots by politically motivated war and commercial interest, the play reinvents an eclectic form that involves dance movements and theatre.
The play Toba Tek Singh searches for that little bit of madness, that creative energy of eccentricity in us.
Nautanki Theatre’s upcoming production Bedtime Story, is written by Kiran Nagarkar and directed by Joyraj Bhattacharjee.
Nagarkar penned Bedtime Story in the 70s during the emergency period in India. The play is based on an Indian epic the Mahabharata. When Nagarkar visited Byron Bay’s literary festival a few years ago Neel Banerjee approached him to discuss Bedtime Story. Nagarkar was kind enough to give Banerjee a copy of the play to read. Since then it has been a steady journey that Nautanki Theatre has embarked on to bring Bedtime Story to Sydney audiences. An engaging plot with flammable material, Bedtime Story was highly censored and prevented from being shown to audiences in India because of actions taken by Hindu extremist.
Nautanki Theatre will have a short season of Bedtime Story in June 2015.