A crazy kaleidoscope
Mar 12, 2014-
It’s like a dream. Uncensored thoughts allowed free rein. It’s stream of consciousness unfiltered and stacked against other such streams. It’s all of these things—or slices and vignettes of them—spliced together, strung along and sometimes left squiggling, without a context, up on stage. And without being bound together by an overarching controlling narrative or plot, all these little bits are let loose upon the audience. And that, in a nutshell, is the play Coma—A Political Sex, written by Kumar Nagarkoti and directed by Yubaraj Ghimire, and now playing at the Gothale theatre.
The play starts out by doing away with the fourth wall. As the audience trickles into the auditorium, they encounter a bald man (Kumar Nagarkoti, the play’s author) seated in the audience-section, reading aloud from Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis. The stage is dark. As the hall fills up, the man walks onto the stage, which slowly gets lit up, and as he continues to read, a loose rabble of chorus singers invades the stage, singing alliterative verses: “C for coffee, C for cigarette, C for cancer and C for coma…!” Apparently all the members of the chorus have come to celebrate their birthdays at the bald man’s house. And as they get on with their shenanigans, it is learned that the bald man (who is no longer on stage) has slipped into a coma—apparently on the same day that the last constituent assembly got scrapped. And he’s promptly given a new moniker by the crowd—Coma Manav.
Amid all this hurly burly, Coma Manav’s wife, Grismila (Sarita Shah) now takes centrestage and starts delivering an unending stream of monologues. Between interruptions by the always-effervescent rabble around her, she touches upon everything from her loneliness and unfulfilled sexual desires and her past loves to the many trials and tribulations she’s been through in her life. The people around her are representative figures, although the categories they represent don’t fit under a neat, discrete taxonomy. There’s Photographer (Roshan Mehta); Coffeena (Prakriti Karki); Nobody (Badal Bhatta); Postman (Govinda Parajuli); Wheelchair Man (Tanka Tiger); Fisherman (Jeevan Baral); Shower Girl (Pabitra Khadka) and Yellow Hat (Kiran Chamling).
The birthday gathering, far from being an occasion to celebrate one another, is more of a crowd that has somehow agglomerated at a common place. Each and every character only wants to talk about his or her own story—and every back story is as strange as every other. For example, Fisherman lugs along fish, which he has apparently managed to net in the Bagmati River; the Postman is carrying a bag full of letters but the letters don’t have addresses; ‘Nobody’ has come from the cremation ghat—it’s not made known if he is a human being or a ghost; only that he has filched a coat from someone at the ghat; and Shower Girl, dressed in a bathrobe, continues a conversation with her boyfriend, on her mobile, even as she shamelessly tries to seduce every male around her. And the music score for the play, rather than being relegated to the background, sometimes turns into the focus of the play, complete with the musicians—Ankit Adhikari and Kiran Chamling—appearing on stage.
All these absurd accounts and anecdotes, which often feel like they are sharp slivers of truths our conscious minds don’t like to acknowledge, take place in a setting where everything is topsy turvy: the play Muna Madan, a short epic, is shown as a thick tome, while The Communist Manifesto is a mere thin pamphlet; and the contents of one book are found in other books.
The characters often blurt out lines that many people probably come up with in their daily living but are forced to keep a lid on—lines such as, “A man is a political party’s animal”, “When a writer says something, then it must be true” and so on. In isolation all these insights and throwaway lines about longing, loneliness, sex, desire and politics would probably be viewed as trifling epiphanies at best or non sequiturs at worst. But in the absurd milieu that the characters find themselves in, these lines take on a strange significance. And together the disparate parts of the play, like shards of a broken mirror, somehow hold together to reflect our lives in all their dirtiest, pettiest—which is to say, strangely human—details.
Published: 12-03-2014 10:41