No Laughter Challenge

Hilary Chaplain,among the few women comedians in the world,wants to tickle Delhi’s funny bone.

Written by Prajakta Hebbar | Published: February 3, 2012 2:38 am

The bride is dressed in a veil made of paper napkins and wears a lampshade as a dress. She gets married to a lamp post — and gives birth to a son made of tissue papers. This might not be an ideal happily-ever-after,but this story of a single woman meeting a man,falling in love,getting married,and having a baby takes place at an alarming speed — so much so that it all happens in a day. A Life in Her Day,a play to be staged as a part of the ongoing Ishara International Puppet Festival in the Capital,does not showcase “a day in the life” of a woman,but a “life in a single day”. And the woman in question is Hilary Chaplain,an actor,mime artist,comedian and clown whom viewers might remember from her occasional television appearances like on The David Letterman Show,and small role in the Hollywood film Forrest Gump.

Chaplain,in her fifties,is visiting India for the first time to showcase her skills of transforming simple household objects into human companions — through her performances. In A Life in Her Day,she plays a Jewish woman “in a publicly shared private world”. “It is not a story about puppets. It is a story about what happens to me when I am interacting with the puppets,” says Chaplain.

When Chaplain acts in A Life in Her Day,she takes the audience through the life of a starry-eyed woman,not with words or elaborate costumes and sets,but just with what she calls “physical comedy”. The play begins with Chaplain’s character getting caught up in an alternate universe — while pouring a bowl of cereal,out pops a surprise,a diamond ring. A lifetime unfolds in the course of an hour as Chaplain enacts the role of a woman who “wants the same thing as everyone else — to be loved”. The actor also deftly switches roles,transforming from the bride to the groom to even a rabbi. “I somehow get the feeling that people don’t think women can be as funny as men. Not that I’ve had any such experiences,but that feeling always pushes me harder to try new things and constantly improve myself,” she explains.

About doing a star turn in Forrest Gump,where she played a protester in Washington,Chaplain recalls,“It was a tiny role but,back then,it was very important to me. Working with director Robert Zemeckis was rewarding as he wanted us to improvise our scenes. It was easy for me,because I am a theatre person,” she says.

In Delhi,she won’t make only the audience at Ishara laugh. Chaplain is also a member of “Clowns Without Borders”,an organisation that spreads cheer among the less-privileged. “I will present shows at crèches and day-care centres for children of construction site workers,and in slums across Delhi,Jaipur and Agra,” she says.

The performance will be held at IHC on February 3 ,and at Epicentre on February 5

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