Monday, December 21, 2009

Roped in

This weekend, Sid and I went for a rather gripping performance of Peter Hamilton’s 1929 play Rope at Almeida Theatre, Islington. (Yes, it is this play that had inspired Hitchcock’s film Rope twenty years later. So you already know it is about ghoulish murders and the evil that lurks in our midst.) Watching the play reminded me again of all the reasons why I would any day prefer good theatre over cinema.

First, is the immense physicality of theatre – the fact that the actors are physically present in front of you. And when the actors know how to exploit this proximity – fill the space with their bodies and voices until nothing else exists but them and you – it is pure magic. Bertie Carvell and Blake Ritson who play the main protagonists of Rope knew how to exploit this potential to inexhorably draw into their cat-and-mouse game. The performance was visceral in a way that movies simply cannot be, thanks to the ever present camera between you and the actors.

And then there was the set. There was a time when I found the single stage of theatre rather static and bare compared to the technicolour busyness of film sets. And yet, doesn’t the real art lie in the power of suggestion. A good theatre stage gives you just enough clues to the setting of the action but leaves your imagination to fill in the rest. And in the process, you find yourself a willing participant of the action, your mind ticking away adding the details that make the action come alive for you. How boring films seem in comparison where everything is pre decided and your imagination is put to rest.

The play itself, I must admit, was rather predictable. But entranced as we were by the Carvell and Ritson and the moody set – all lights and shadows around a circular stage, a chest filled with a dead body in between, and rumbles of thunder in the background – I don’t think Sid and I really noticed. We came out thrilled and satisfied and ready to tackle Avatar.

The play will be performed everyday at Almeida Theatre, Islington till Feb 6, 2010.


Girish Shahane said...
One interesting thing about the Leopold and Loeb case is how it was solved by great detective work: seeking out the store that sold distinctive eyeglasses, finding only three clients that fit the bill, and following up thoroughly with each. Can you think of an Indian murder case solved in this fashion?

globalbabble said...

Giggle... no, as you would say, they would probably get all the suspects in, beat the shit out of them until one of them broke down and confessed to the murder - and bingo! Case solved. So much easier than looking through eye glasses.