‘The Times We Live In’ gives audience a well-enacted bouquet of plays

By Poornima Koonath
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Director Jyotsna with Avijit Sarkar

Stella Adler very rightly said, “Acting is in everything but the words.” For learning the lines and delivering them in front of an audience would be public speaking! Acting is about understanding the psyche of the character one is playing and it can be emotionally quite intense!

The evening of 2 November was indeed a red-letter day in the lives of many budding actors. The acting skills these amateur actors displayed speaks volumes of the kind of director Jyotsna Sharma is. The Flight Path Theatre saw friends, family, colleagues and well-wishers eagerly waiting as they were getting ready to take centre stage… and they did that with aplomb and in style.

Jyotsna had very tastefully selected eight 10-minute plays creating a beautiful bouquet depicting the times we live in. Charity Case, Chemistry Test, Matter of Form and Truth Spell were written by Ruth Fingret, Men Are from Venus and Women are from Mars by Latifa Amal-Schwarz, Of Maths and Stuff and Girls just wanna have…burgers by Jyotsna and the last play of the show, Friends, Whiskey and Facebook by Avijit Sarkar. When asked what motivated her to select the plays she did, Jyotsna said, “Just that I wanted the ensemble to be modern contemporary relevant and in the universal language that is English. I was also partial to comedies and I knew the short play format would show my students skills to their best advantage.”

While acting comes naturally to some, for others it is an acquired skill. ‘The Times We Live In’ honed in and took full advantage of what the actors had to offer. The setting and the music were minimal, but just right. The evening began with ‘Charity Case’, the story about an uncanny friendship that develops in a park between two strangers from different walks of life, as they talk about life and life experiences and somewhere along the way find a common chord. The characters were ably played by Mahi Trehn and Bijal Shah. ‘Of Maths and Stuff’ and ‘Girls Just wanna have…burgers’ was about young girls and their idiosyncrasies. Anjali Mavji, Muskan, Arora, Gurkeerat Kaur Dhody, Naina Trehn, Julika Chadha and Aakriti Mehrotra hough in their early teens and Aarushi Kumar, just ten years old, were confident and impressed the audience with their performances.

The “Chemistry Test’ had nothing to do with that branch of science, it wasn’t about molecules, but it most certainly was about balancing the equation—balancing the equation in the grandest of all chemistries, the one between a man and a woman. Bob Phil and Shreya Sethi played characters looking online to find for themselves the best possible match. But the built-up crescendo crumbles into a heap when they see each other in person and are very quick to retract away. A play that can strike a chord or a nerve! ‘Truth Spell’ and ‘Men are from Venus and Women are from Mars’ explored the relationship between couples. While the former was an emotionally charged and intense exploring the insecurity suffered by men in a relationship, the later had a comic underlay. Real life couple Mahesh and Shikha Arora and co-actors Bob Phil and Akanksha Srivatava delivered power-packed performances. ‘Matter of Form’ is the tale of a simpleton and his unhappy and self-imposing mother who constantly interferes with the way her son chooses to run his bookstore. The play had Renu Singal as the mother, Mahesh Arora as the son and Lalitha Chellappan as the shopper. ‘Friends, Whiskey and Facebook’ is a satire based on the so-called modern life, where people confront each other at parties and are quite offended when their Facebook posts have not been liked by their Facebook friends. The audience got to see the very talented guitarist Sadiq Rehmani in a very different light. The play also included Shakil Shaikh, Lalitha Chellappan (with her piercing laughter), Shivanie Dheeraj, Bijal Shah and Mahi Trehn. This final play brought all the actors together on the stage.

Director Jyotsna and all the actors must be applauded for their hard work and dedication. The performers who are novices and have had minimal to no stage experience trained under Jyotsna for just six months before the performance. When asked how she felt after watching her labour of love unfold in front of her, Jyotsna said, “Gratified. It takes a lot to co-ordinate the props, movements and set arrangements for 8 different plays, because even though it was one evening, they were all completely different productions. There was very little margin for error or confusion, and it was a relief when it all came together the way it was meant to. The audience was responsive and generous with their applause. My students made me proud.” The production was ably supported by these people behind the scenes, Lights by Kamal Krishna, Sound by Taufeeq Ahmed, Video and Photographs by Pankaj Upadhayay. And the premises of Avijit Sarkar’s Natraj Academy were used for the classes and rehearsals.

Jyotsna is a seasoned theatre artist with an impressive resume. Not only has she perfected her acting skills in the company of some well-known artists like Sohaila Kapur, Padma Shri Aamir Raza Hussain, Meeta Vasisht, Dolly Ahluwalia Tewari, Danish Hussain, Barry John, to name but a few, she has also taught drama in some reputed institutions and done dubbing and voice overs for channels like HBO, Fox Prime, National Geographic and NDTV among others.

Jyotsna is active on the Sydney Theatre scene. Her most recent performance was in ‘Dismissed’, written and directed by Ruth Fingret. Her debut directorial venture, ‘Guards at the Taj’, was very well received by the theatre loving populace of Sydney.

Jyotsna teaches drama at The Helen O Grady Drama Academy during the week. The final production with her at the Academy is on 8 Dec at Zenith Theatre Chatswood. On weekends, Jyotsna runs drama classes for all aspiring actors of all ages. If you have ever been smitten by the acting bug but never had the chance to explore it, what are you waiting for? Jyotsna’s next acting batch starts in February 2020.

 

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