Paloma Pedrero’s Parting Gestures, for the project, Women by Women involving Spanish plays written by women, to be directed by Indian women, curated by Sukhesh Arora. This project was supported by Instituto Cervantes, New Delhi.
The play had 3 shows- two at Studio Safdar and one at Instituto Cervantes. It was premiered at Instituto Cervantes in 2013.
Directed by: Manjari Kaul
Performed by: Aishwarya Chaudhary, Dilpreet Taggar, Harshita Guha, Shibani Bedi, Promona Sengupta, Prashansa Sharma, Manjari Kaul
The following posts first published @ peelibilli.wordpress.com
WALKING THE RAZOR’S EDGE
(On the process of creating Parting Gestures)
Several people responded to the call for auditions in March, curious about Yellowcat’s Women by Women project, keen to find out more about the plays and eager to contribute to the process of performance building. After a quick exchange about each one’s previous experiences as a performer/artist and a brief on the project and script, the audition was a three step process. The actors were expected to perform a monologue of their choice, read from Paloma Pedrero’s Parting Gestures, and perform a physical, non-verbal improvised piece based on a theme/mood given to them.
The many talented people who came to audition, oozing with fresh ideas and brimming with energy made it harder for me to pick six out of all of them. However, the decision had to be made and it had to be six performers who I thought (in my obviously subjective approach) could contribute best to my interpretation of the script and compliment each other’s style and energy. However, despite all the meticulous planning and breaking down of audition procedure there was a surprise in store for me – the six performers I had zeroed in on were all women! I hadn’t planned on an all female cast but when I stared at those six names on a piece of paper and flashes of their exuberance replayed in my head like a showreel, I knew I was making the right decision. (A little into the process one of the six actresses dropped out and I stepped in in her stead, hoping and striving to match her effervescence.)
The three plays that make up Parting Gestures – The Colour of August, The Voucher and A Night in The Subway – are tight, intimate, two actor settings and all (except the last) are set in private spaces. One of the things that really interests me is the interconnectedness of the plays, the fluid that runs and seeps through each one of them. I’ m eager to explore the in-between of these three urban love stories, the action and situations that surround them; what the experience of the city lends to the longing and desire in the story, the gender dynamics that cause the tugging and release moments in the text. The task of this performance would be to create moments of walking the razor’s edge, of refreshing unpredicatbility, of hair standing on end within everyday, prosaic moments.
The process of bringing the written text to the here and now has been seeped in exciting discoveries, trippy moments of seemingly unrelated material coming together and interjections with our own daily experiences. I did not feel the need to adapt the script because in some senses it spoke of an urban experience that is common to the urban experience of the globalized world we inhabit – meeting of lovers in unexpected circumstances, surreal surroundings, forming ephemeral connections; lovers negotiating nostalgia, viewing the past through a lens of bliss while the here and now constantly tugs at their conscience; bickering, conflicting lovers dealing with questions of fidelity, ownership and repressed desire. Instead of adapting the script to an Indian context I chose to juxtapose it with the experiences of six women performers’ experiences of living and loving in the city.
I’m not interested in stressing on man-woman polarities. Instead, we chose to look at the complexity of multiple genders and gender relationships . One of the ways in which we explored this is with the playing of male parts by women. We create a space that allows for androgyny, for multiple sexual identities, a slipperyness in sexual identities that disallows essentialism. By beginning the process from the body and letting it move from body to mind we lay stress on corporeal, visceral encounters – encounters that perhaps are best understood through lived physical reality.
POST-PARTUM PONTIFICATION ON PARTINGS
Parting Gestures as a project began by asking the question of what it meant for us, six Indian women to be performing a play written by a Spanish woman in a contemporary Spanish context. I, as a director, wasn’t interested in ‘universalization’, nor was I interested in aiding the audience into any sort of “suspension of disbelief.” As the play evolved, we felt no need for a hyper-masculine portrayal of men to distinguish them from the women characters. We concentrated on exploring subtleties and not polarities in gender relations, may be even play with spaces of ambiguity and androgyny.
We did a lot of solo as well as ensemble improvisations that helped us explore themes of individual and/in society, collective v/s isolated experiences, conjoining and fracturing in love. It helped us set up a context of sorts for the three short pieces- The Colour of August, The Voucher and The Night in a Subway. The actors brought in their own very personal phenomenological experience of being women of a certain class in an urban Indian context. The result was a delightfully rich montage of city experiences that flashed in spurts, with the foreground of Pedrero’s text. The two fed into and took from one another, creating a poetic score.
Playing on a bare stage and with a city soundscape that was at times created by the actors, at times a recorded track, the decisions about when to bring in music and where to work with silence were tricky but once we took them, everything seemed to sit quite well with one another.
Directing a telling of three tales one after another was an easeful process because of how wonderfully the actors worked individually, with each other, with the space (we adapted well to the two very different spaces we have performed in so far- the Instituto Cervantes auditorium and Studio Safdar), the soundscape and the lights plan. I wouldn’t say we exhaustively explored everything we set ourselves for exploration at the start of this project but we stumbled upon unexpected things. We stitched them up in what may not have been a seamless narrative but definitely a story told in interesting intersections and conjunctions.