A preview and a masterclass

On January 28th, I attended a preview of Anupama Chandrasekhar’s play Free Outgoing directed by Mahesh Dattani. It is the first time in India (in three cities – Bangalore, Madras and Bombay) that this play is being performed.

The space was the Edouard Michelin auditorium at the Alliance Francaise Madras, a place that holds a lot of memories for me. Many many years before, I had worked backstage for Anushka Ravishankar’s plays Cockroach and Do You Love Me?. What an idyllic time it was! I was in charge of the music. Before you imagine me with any high-tech stuff, let me assure you all I did was press a button! Every day after work (work at that time wrapped up at 5.30) for nearly 2 months (or was it 3?), I used to go to the old Amethyst for rehearsals. In my case, it was sitting on mat and observing while people acted and created these perfect and fragile little alternate realities. Sometimes I substituted for an actor if she failed to turn up. I met some wonderful people during that time. I was happy. The final shows were at the Edouard Michelin auditorium. In one of those performance nights, I stumbled down the steps because it was too dark inside! I literally went thump thump thump in the middle of a performance. It’s to actor’s credit that she didn’t stop acting. Since then I haven’t worked in a play so know you know why I am reminiscing. I did go back to watch plays – it is probably the theatre space almost every theatre group has performed in. This time, I went back to the auditorium to see the first ever preview (of anything) that I have attended.

I’ve read Free Outgoing as a text but never seen it been performed. So this was a treat! After the show the director Mahesh Dattani wanted to know the feedback of the people who attended the preview. So we took the discussion from the auditorium upstairs to the circular space downstairs. And that is when I got my impromptu masterclass. He asked about emotional impact of the play, what worked and what didn’t. I told him. I listened as other people said many things – some of which I didn’t agree with but still which made me look at the play from a different angle. He spoke to the actors about what they were doing well and what wasn’t working. Creating something this intangible on stage – much of which relies on the unknown second party i.e. the audience – is so difficult and extraordinary. I’ve always respected the process but this was something else, a new point of view. I learnt so much just by observing him. I read Mahesh Dattani’s plays in college. I did have my quiet fangirl moment!

As you noticed, I refrained from talking about the show itself. That’s because you should watch it! Bangalore people have had the privilege already. People in Bombay will get to see it on 12 February at the NCPA. Please go if you can. If you are in Madras, the show is on today 6th February and tomorrow 7th February at the Museum Theatre, Egmore. Tickets are available here. See you there!

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