Jun 24, 2015

Song of the Swan (Play) - a review

I have been living in Mumbai for more than 10 years now, and yet I have not managed to watch many plays. Pretty shameful, indeed.

My friend and colleague had this interesting new-year resolution aspect about watching one play every month. I guess I must have been triggered by it. Plus, one of J’s friends is part of the cast of many plays.

A combination of these two factors has started to have it’s effect, and I have been to three plays that she is acting in in the last two months­­—The Vagina Monologues, Boiled Beans on Toast, and Song of the Swan.

The play is a recollection of stories revolving around the tragic beheading of a Norwegian theater artist, Hans Christian, in Kashmir a few years back. Hans, while chasing his dream of being a successful playwright, visited India because he was attracted by its spirituality. He visited Kerala and took Kathakali lessons from a local master. Then he went to Mumbai, where he accidentally met the Song of the Swan’s director Asad Hussain at Prithvi after a play that Hussain was in the cast of, before heading to Delhi on his way to Kashmir. In Kashmir, he was held captive by Mujahideen for several days before ultimately behind beheaded after failed negotitations.

The entire play was a continuous narrative, with the five-member cast performing the various roles within the various scenes. The transitions between the scenes were abrupt and were startling at times. I often found myself getting lost in the narrative monologues of one character, only to be shaken back to reality by the the almost intrusive entry of the next. Plus, during the more schizoid scenes, there would be two or more characters talking over each other, representing to the chaotic environment inside the minds of the various characters.

Song of the Swan has deep-rooted political and philosophical narratives. The political aspect comes from the obvious terrorism-related story. But the various scenes set in Kashmir near the Dal lake bring the viewer to painful awareness of the struggles of the natives, how they are being played out like Pawns in the game between India and Pakistan, and how they consider themselves as neither nation. The play seems to attribute some empathy to the negotiator representing the Mujahideen, and the narrative of the phone conversations between the two negotiators was an aspect that I have never come across. The most important part, however, is how the state of affairs plays with the sanity of the different players in the Kashmir theater.

The philosophical aspect comes from the fact that Hans, who is described as an absolute gem of a person with many enviable attributes (singing/acting), has had a miserable life, with multiple rejections in different fronts. He was coming from a failed marriage and had been rejected admission in some theater schools. He is lured by the spirituality aspect of India and has this dream of writing a play and getting it on the best theater in Oslo. His mother’s character often wonders if he should have been a more “normal” boy without such big aspirations. I thought that was symbolic of several artist friends that I know (including myself) who seem to struggle because of their seemingly overambitious dreams.

I loved the play. But as my friend rightly says, I’m very pleasable. So although I compeltely recommend it, I also hope that you like it as much as I did.

No comments: