Theatre director Deepan Sivaraman on adapting Henrik Ibsens Peer Gynt
Deepan Sivaraman,his tangly hair waving in the wind,watches the crowd that flocks to the Chandigarh Ibsen festival,and says,My work is abstract. I like to create madness,hallucinations,I guess it goes with my madness. His adaptation of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt is one of the highlights of the festival. In the play,it is easy to see how Sivaraman creates new stage languages His Peer Gynt is a visual drama,not confined by the text or a box stage.
Sivaraman,38,director of the Thrissur-based Oxygen Theatre Company,is one of India’s most-sought after modern theatrepersons,his reputation enhanced after his powerful play,Spinal Cord,won the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards this year. I start with space,not form or words. I draw the space I want to work with and then make several drawings to give shape to the play,the actors movement,stage setting,lighting,drawing all the scenes with action and no dialogue, he says.
Sivaraman,who is studying and teaching scenography in London,adds that theatre should be political for we cannot turn away from society. Peer Gynt,for instance,fascinated him because it is a complex story that merges folklore,fantasy and realism,and switches between consciousness and unconsciousness and is heavily abstract. There are various sociopolitical elements in Ibsens plays. Doll’s House,for instance,was the first feminist play,and Peer Gynt has a universal plot of a troubled man exploring life,undertaking a long journey,his sins,various phases and finally returning home to lose his soul, he explains.
Sivaraman begins the play with Peer Gynt dying in a mortuary that belongs to God. I gave a contemporary adaptation,so Peer is shown in America making a speech about India in one scene, says the director. He uses life-size puppets,stunning costumes and skeletons to create a visual extravaganza.
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