Thursday, November 26, 2009

It takes the biscuit

The tickets, were difficult to procure. The show runs a full house every single evening. And the sell out is easy to understand after two odd hours of stepping into the world, that is, Warhorse.

No previously read reviews, watched videos or overheard babble can ruin this work of sheer genius. Nick Stafford's adaptation of the text climbs multiple rungs for its sincere dramaturgy and an accession to simplicity that beats most Westend spectacles, hollow. The plot, uncomplicated allows the dramaturge to infuse life into the acts by using life size puppets, crafted deftly by the Handspring Puppet Company and suddenly, the inanimate objects become the engaging anchor. To think out loud, the production uses multiple media (too many, actually) to tell a rather straightforward story however the switch from one medium to the other, from text to dextrous choreography of the puppets, singing and dancing, dialogue and animal sounds to the animation on the minimalist backdrop is indeed, effortless. The story revolves around the love a young boy has for his horse.Of how the horse is sold to the dragoons during the First World War. And how they're reunited over a series of effectively staged incidents pertaining to the war.

Starkly, an honest tale. And honestly, a stark one at that.

The set is minimal and does justice to the simplicity of the piece. A constructed screen and a massive revolve are the only two permanent elements that allow for many a prop or staging device to be wheeled in or hauled down. The narration is crisp and ingenious in it's use of the extents of the stage. Effectual choreography with large sticks held by a chorus of five players transforms the playing area from a marketplace to a stable, a pasture and the house of the young boy called Albert. Each horse chassis is maneuvered by 3 people; one controlling his head and the other two, it's body. The frameworks created for the puppeteers to play with are incredibly detailed. The sound of the hooves on the stage, the sound of the horse smacking its tail down are all percipient facets to the complete design of the mechanism. When the horses gallop, the mind immediately obliterates the three people who manipulate it's movements and the horses take focus. Each puppet in itself is also different and the inclusion of some other puppets almost makes it a complete world. Not just a slotted gimmick to the production.

Stage properties, like the performers, double up and create smaller worlds. Stage space is fluid. Audiences find a bunch of actors seated next to them while the puppets spin their magic yarn and the scenes fade into one another, harmoniously.

The production doesn't particularly need a space such as the New London Theatre to thrive. It's dramatic appeal lies in the impregnable fit of it's direction, choreography and dexterity assumed around the puppets. It would work just the same (or even better) in a park or a square.

Warhorse, to me, is an appropriate example of what theatre ought to be. And almost a mockery of the technologically crippled spectacles it aspires to turn into. The production values here, indeed are large. But the monies seem wisely spent. Not a single aspect appears over-designed or intellectualised. It is as unfeigned as an instance of a bedtime story told by a father to his child, using little toys and blocks over the contours of the blanket, the child is tucked into. It's effective. And heartwarming. It is a story we all know and we've all heard. In the different tunes we sing in our head before we sleep. It's a story that needs not a 'Once upon a time' or 'an ogre and a fairy' but a neigh and another, to have me sleep happy.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Too many a door, too many a dot.

I walked through an epiphany
No heights, no deafening hum
Sepia sequences in duotone
Paper thin stone facades
the same
leaves rustling up a tune
a man busy fixing
his doll, changing it's
circuitry from DC to AC
The engines rev; the neon, embitters
the night, cold
struck away from yesterday
or where I come from.
poetic reasoning or outpour
on a blank night
Starlets on a cloudy turf, nebulae with no names.
Noises and things I see
shut out

I close my mouth, my hands and eyes
to see Goldenrod mosaics
tesselate and dance
in dots and lines, converging
in elliptical circles
parabolic tendencies
rings in phosphorescence
The dots, they converge, resuming walks, tracing lines
dots, dots and dits. Smaller. Now.
An exodus of points, a line detonates
I blink; my eyes dry, moisten and glister now
sodium, vapourises
the streetlamps howl and bleed
crying smelting spheres of yellow
a hue so bright and naked
scathing lines across, my mind and the sky.

and the score rests; incomplete
on a newer prologue
A Keynote. A quantum beginning.

Jasmin Vardimon // YESTERDAY

Living in a city littered with performances every evening, drives me to atleast two a week. And while I watch them, I take mental notes, sometimes grab a quick unobserved image over my phone or record a sound piece to take back home and store up within the bank of things I will go back to every now and then.

I walked into THE PLACE at Euston square last evening, knowing not very much about Jasmin Vardimon. I'd heard of her prowess over the artform given her presence at a few dance festivals that friends had once mentioned, but save that and a few youtube videos (to check if buying tickets would be worth my while), Jasmin Vardimon Company, wasn't particularly within my umwelt (yes, this word reappears often when I write. Yes, you'll have to bear with it. Yes, you can go ahead and "Tsk")

If a retrospective of ten years of work looks like what I saw yesterday, it sets a very high benchmark for any artist in any sphere of performance to live upto. For a company to produce a body of work that braids technology, dramaturgy and dance so rather seamlessly, is nothing but a feat unmatched. The performance draws in it's audience as they walk in and take their seats. And the long curtain call almost cheers out an encore. 'Yesterday', the retrospective piece by the Company is a tale of triumph, of endurance, dexterity and above all, a collective notion of enraptured space and time. A movement pattern etched out so completely on a palette that comprises the human body, the lines in space and driven form, music , technology and carved space within an intimate setting for a captive audience. It defies every rule in the game, every note on the score and every point of contact with the piece that the audience already presumes. The performers, aren't smaller cogs in the wheel that turns deftly and spans a duration of evocative latitudes. They are, but the larger system that allow the weft of technology and stage properties to be woven within. The affordances of the object, the human body, the screens, projections, lights and sound are stretched elastically and they garner shape that the choreography lends them to creating multiple strata of poignant frames and freezes that progressively form the whole.

The performers almost lend their bodies to the performance and stand away, in ekstasis, watching their limbs take forms that instill meanings and methods beyond their own means. The bodies buckle, fall, bounce and drift across the stage like marionettes in the hands of a lucid dreamer. Their skins become almost transluscent media for creating larger pieces of automatic art, canvasses for detailed maps and elongated mindspaces. The facets tell their individual stories yet they don't add up to the whole. Infact, the summation of piece lies in grander truths that the performers explore and astutely convey. Form dissolves into darkness and the eye traces the outlines of what remains or may have been. Escapades and stolen notes from diaries of youth come to life upon a stage set afire by souls in stop motion, watched in their personal staccatos and legatos. One stares into a theatre laboratory and finds a madhouse of scientists busy at work, imploding intentions and preserving the inviolate.

The collective energies propel the performance into a league, unmatched. The narratives seep in from the lacuna, as the performers breathe spirit into the ordinary and make it indelible. Humor, strikes its note and the falsetto echoes a sympathetic chorus. The dramaturge, sits perched on the throne (or in this case, the chaise lounge) the choreographer sits nimbly upon, with those who infuse the night. His role, is perhaps the most pivotal in the series of works that the audience is subjected to. And as elements of mass choreography tend to play repetitions (which does help hold the performance together, though I did hear people complain about similar routines), the dramaturge smokes his pipe and blows rings in phosphorescence. Thermal screens, live projections, stylised videos, animated sequences, simplistic prop elements and costume, basic percussion and lighting plots set the ball rolling. In this case, it's almost a dribble run.

Each piece is short, concise and structured within the meta-narrative almost gleefully. The dancers emote, sing, squeal, shout and thump almost as well as they swing their sinewy frames across a gargantuan expanse that seems too little to contain them. Yet, they stop when they do, robotically, mid-motion, mid-air, mid-speech, mid-thought and mid-intention, choreographed, almost by a ghost pull or swerve that changes their trajectories and delights at newer syllogisms.
The audience, on its part, forgets to breathe. Some, forget they gape. I think I did also observe people clasping shut the mouths of those they accompanied as the performers lined up for a curtain call.
A standing ovation, but obviously.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

24 July

I miss you.

I remember you in technicolour dreams and generous smiles
in tearful eyes, wails and loving sighs
To think that I stayed away from our city, waiting for the big tide to subside
for the rain to settle down, the skies to shine on bright.
The water came down
crashed, and it did.
It took you away
sweeping our hearts and souls
and drying out these tired eyes
cheeks, tearstained
in wild hopes and lucid dreams

I miss you. Though never in a void.
In life. Truth and sincerity. In real love.
and warmth.
In coloured shoes and scarves
Fox hats, pierced noses and kohled eyes.

In every soulful cry
In the blurry mist
The howling night

In pink, in death.
In pink, in life.

Friday, November 13, 2009


The wind howled

All night

And so did my mind

In thought sunk deep, far and entrenched

In memories of childhood and relief

The howl and the scream

Set tone to the game we play

As wolves in a pack of puppets

set to score

Non-metered, immeasurable

lengths of our stories

and lives of our own, on terms we

Never learnt to set

Rules, we didn't think applied

Strings we never mastered

Limbs, that don’t move

Not now.

Atleast for now.

I hope they soon do.


I've stayed away from writing here too long. Maybe putting my writing out to dry doesn't do me good in my head. i find myself constantly wondering when I'd get back to it. And I realise that over the last few months, I've been making detailed blog entries in my head.
The move to London's done me good. And it's opened my mind out to see things, anew. And some things new.

I'll write more often. Now. And maybe transcribe the loop that's been playing in my head and on the other random sheets of paper I make myself write.