The sound of laughter which can be heard on the road, guides you to the rehearsal spot — a basement space with wooden flooring. A laptop with iTunes popped open, a tape recorder and an LP player rest among cartons and trunks stuffed with clothes. As Kriti Pant from city-based theatre outfit Tadpole Repertory prepares to slip into character, director and scriptwriter Neel Chaudhuri takes a last look at the playlist for Godspeed, which is scheduled to be staged today.
The play, which won Chaudhuri the Toto Funds the Arts award in 2009, shows Pant cleaning the room of a young man who has recently passed away. He says, “The idea for Godspeed actually came to me through a friend who wanted to write a story about a 27-year-old who died of a heart attack. Months later, my friend had abandoned the idea, but I couldn’t get over it. So after going through a lot of medical cases and online research, I stumbled across SADS (Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndrome).”
The shadow of English singer-songwriter Nicholas Rodney “Nick” Drake’s music hangs heavily on the production — Chaudhuri talks about how Drake’s words, “records of your lifetime”, influenced him in crafting the late character’s personality, something which Pant refers to in the play. You’ll also hear a bit of Elliott Smith besides being given into Peter, Paul and Mary’s Puff, the magic dragon. Engaging and beautifully scripted, the 40-minute English production needs no other special effects or over-the-top props. Though the subject doesn’t exactly inspire one to think of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, woven into the script are some light-hearted moments which do more than making you laugh — they make you ruminate, they make you wonder. For instance, Pant — very believable as a character who has lost someone close to her — talks about the appropriateness and inappropriateness of things that people say while dealing with somebody’s death.
As Pant puts away clothes and rummages through the late character’s LPs and reel cassettes, we see the life of young man slowly unfolding — the records of his lifetime all summed up in the things that he’s kept over the years. When the curtains come down, Pant’s voice lingers in your mind, bringing to you bits and pieces of someone who lives on through the stories that people tell of him.