Arts and Entertainment

The language of silence

- Sandesh Ghimire, Kathmandu

Feb 7, 2018-

Soon after the hour-long play Witch ended at Sarwanam Theatre, director Peter Saifarth prompted a discussion, as per the tradition of Forum (Kachahari) theatre. He prefaced the discussion by saying that in Nepal, suicide is the greatest cause of death among women of reproductive age, and asked the audience participating in the discussion if the unresolved climax of the play was justified. “The final scene felt very true,” a member in the audience remarked, “I felt that I, as a part of the society, was being indicted for the suffering of the woman in the play.”

There were some 12 people that partook in the discussion, who seemed to agree with the first remark that was made. Then the discussion took a different turn, when a theatre student claimed that despite his years of training, Witch, the play changed his perspective on what theatre could do. The remark was harkening back to the fact that a story of love, betrayal, and suffering was told without any dialogue, or stage prop. Throughout the play, a long string of light was constantly being repurposed to give impressions of various scenes and circumstances. The storytelling of the play relied on the gestures employed by the actors, and many of the audience members were pleasantly amazed by the fact that the play had struck a universal cord. 

“The play had a universal appeal. Despite its silence, it relied on a language of gestures and movement that is derived from Nepali culture and tradition,” somebody quickly retorted to the claim that was made moments before, and asked the director why he had chosen such a format to tell the play’s story.

“I have always been interested in the format, and I came to Nepal thinking that there would be a lot of physical theatre here,” the director of the play said, “Since there are a lot of languages spoken here, I had imagined that physical theatre was often used to overcome the language barrier, it was an odd surprise to realise that the theatre scene here is very verbose.”

During the discussion, some of the audience members said that when they heard that Witch was a physical theatre, they had imagined it to be an abstract dance-like performance. However, they claimed that their view was challenged from the very beginning of the play. “Hopefully, other theatres will try to incorporate more physical acting in their play,” an audience member remarked. Then, the discussion shifted to a tea shop.

Published: 07-02-2018 09:45

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