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2 Apr 2010

Robinson And Crusoe - The Play by A-ha Productions

I found www.indianstage.in when Chetan Bhagat tweeted about FPS playing at Rangashankara and I followed his link to buy tickets online. I subscribed to get regular updates on plays in Bengaluru and yesterday, I watched my second play in 2 months.

This time I wanted to go with friends (too much of husband can get overwhelming), so I asked the girls if they were interested and was pleased when Jazz said yes. The original plan of driving there had to be shelved because the car has been acting cranky lately, so the husband offered to pick me up after the show (which means dinner afterwards, yay!) and booked tickets for us.

We left by the company shuttle at 5.15PM and reached her house around 5.45PM. After a long, hot drive and what seemed like eternity, I was grateful for the cold, lemon juice. After some frustrated attempts at trying to get the cable connection working, Jazz and I headed out while her poor husband continued to battle with the TV. We reached the newly opened Crossword Bookstore at JP Nagar, where I picked up a few books (I'll spare you the details of the painful ordeal at the billing counter), bought a couple of sandwiches at Cafe Coffee Day and took an auto-rickshaw to Rangashankara.

We looked around for a helpdesk or counter where we could convert our e-ticket printout into real tickets and finding none, decided that it was not required. Another drink later, we went upstairs, only to be told that we had to exchange the e-ticket at the counter 'outside'. As I ran down the stairs, the friendly watchman asks me if I had booked tickets under the husband's name! I said yes and continued to run in the direction of the counter he was pointing at, bewildered that he knew my booking details. On my way back from buying the tickets, I asked him and couldn't stop laughing when he said, "You were the only 2 tickets that were bought online".

The auditorium was not crowded so we got seats in the centre column. The play was introduced.

Written by Nina D'Introna and Giacomo Ravicchio. 
Directed by Gracias Devaraj.
Two soldiers... No common language? One roof.... Ocean all around... Friendship wins! 
Action and fun like you have not seen before! Theatre for the young, young adults and young at heart!

She also mentioned the actors, sponsors and other details. I am unable to present those here and my excuse is bad memory.

The play started with loud music crackling on stage. Bright lights showed water and a large pyramid-shaped  structure that looked like the roof of a wrecked ship over it.

My first turn-off was finding out that the scene on stage was not going to change for the entire duration (90 minutes). The second was when I heard that there would be only 2 actors. The first 10 minutes were just action and no sound. Turn-off number 3. I braced myself for some yawning and squirming in my seat, for the next hour and half. 

No such luck. Within minutes the play started getting interesting. The noises, the confusion, the body language and acting was all very good. The change of scene was managed solely with lights and sound, all brilliantly done. The actors were extremely good. It cannot be easy to hold your audience's interest with the same background for 90 minutes and just 2 characters unless you were really good. This play was a well-directed one. 

Right from the confusion between Robinson & Crusoe, one of who spoke English and the other gibberish (forgive me if that was a real language, it didn't sound like one), to when they slowly learn to understand each other using a combination of sounds, actions and words, the audience are with the actors through and through. When the big ape-like man (Crusoe, shall we assume?) starts screaming in the beginning, we feel as lost as the little English-speaking guy who's plane has crashed into the sea and he landed on the island with his parachute. The way Robinson conveys his predicament to the audience by thinking aloud at times and by desperate actions to Crusoe at others, is clap-worthy. Crusoe's animal-like yelps and growls seemed to greatly amuse the children among the audience.

At one point, when Robinson and Crusoe are still fighting each other, they perform a slow-motion act that last a couple of minutes. That was my favourite part of the play! The lights go dim, just sufficiently lighting the stage for us to be able to make out the actions on stage. The background sounds that add to the actions neatly blend with the scene and the audience are barely aware of the 'music'. The actors perform slow dance-like movements that appear like a fight between two soldiers, played out in slow motion. It was done to perfection - the blows, the falls, the synchronization, the expressions were all simply mind-blowing. There was pin-drop silence among the audience during this act. I almost didn't blink. Suddenly, there is a blast of music, bright lights come on and the actors fall apart with a loud yell. The slow-motion switched to real life fight scene splendidly. I felt like I had redeemed most of the worth of my ticket in these 3 - 5 minutes. 

The story goes on to demonstrate how hunger forces them to acknowledge each other, albeit still suspicious of each other. There is a touching moment when they find a mouse in the little storage inside the 'roof' and both want to kill it. When each has to actually kill the mouse, they find themselves unable to do so and end up feeding the mouse with the little crumbs of biscuits they have. Each man attempts to kill the mouse and goes through a change of emotions from kill-it to can't-do-it in his own way - Robinson, the wuss and Crusoe, the beast. One can feel the stark difference in the portrayal of the same scene enacted by the different characters on the stage.

There are some light moments where they tease each other, attempt to amuse themselves with stuff they find from other travellers who had once been lost on the same roof as them and the idiosyncrasies of the English-speaking fellow. The audience clapped their hands at some scenes and we could hear a couple of kids in the audience totally enjoying the rough, messy-haired, tarzan-like character of Crusoe. 

Towards the end of the play, the two of them have grown really attached to each other and work together to build a raft and lifeboat out of the scrap available, as they think of their families back home. A few more minutes of myriad emotions as they argue about the direction in which they must row, who takes which life-boat, coming to a win-win decision and exchanging mementos. There is another heart-wrenching moment when they have to bade each other goodbye as they row in opposite directions. 

Lights out.

When the lights come back on, the group comes on stage for a long round of applause from the audience. It was designed for children but equally enjoyable by 'young-at-heart adults', as the website promised.

If you want to watch it, it's playing at Rangashankara at 7.30PM until the 4th of April. It's good value for money.

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