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Fusing art and theatre
By: Farida Hariyanawala
October 30, 2003

Sir Michael Gambon and Lee Evans: Two's company

Theatre and space. A restrictive relationship you might say. Yet, the play The Respectable Prostitute manages to defy the space within which audiences associate with the characters.

Using installation art, personal spaces are created for the main characters outside the auditorium using an ensemble of different objects or effects to familiarise audiences with the characters.

After a successful opening in September at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), the play will be performed again on October 31 at the same venue. Conceptualised by Shriti Khandelwal (22) and Tazeen Nadiadwala (21) of the newly formed theatre group Manna Makers, it is perhaps for the first time that installation art has been fused with theatre.

“We thought that we should give the audience something interesting to arouse their curiosity instead of just introducing the characters in a conventional way,” says Tazeen.

Specific details about each of the characters are depicted using an object and a quote that best describes them. “One of the characters in our play is cold and unmoving, so he is portrayed using a block of ice. Similarly the Afro-American is represented using a Bible and a crumpled blood-stained shirt to symbolise his social condition,” elaborates Shriti, who is directing the play.

Written by French playwright Jean Paul Sartre, The Respectable Prostitute depicts the life of a prostitute and an Afro-American, one a victim of society, the other of racial discrimination, and how their lives become intertwined by fate.

“The play is an attack on the holier-than-thou white nationalism and we chose it because it suits the Indian context. The Afro-American represents the Dalits, who have been a discriminated section of society,” explains Shriti.

The Respectable Prostitute is the first stage production of the Manna Makers, a group started by Shriti and Tazeen out of sheer love for theatre.

The group had started coffee theatre in the city recently to promote theatre and break its elitist image.

The Respectable Prostitute will be staged at NGMA on October 31 at 7 pm and will be followed by a discussion. Tickets available at the venue.

  Jean Paul Sartre. A french philosopher of the 20th century.
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