Cast of One

Cast of One

Popular UK artiste Pip Utton will open the first edition of Going Solo — a theatre festival of one-person plays — along with South African actor Jailoshini Naidoo

Once in theatre-actor Pip Utton’s green room,his make-up artistes got creative trying to see who else he could look like. On a whim,they made him up like the Nazi dictator,Adolf Hitler. When Utton saw himself in the mirror,he was scared. That’s when the idea of doing a one-man show based on the most feared and hated personality formed in his head.

The solo act,titled Adolf,premiered in the UK in 1997 and has since travelled to at least a dozen countries. Critically acclaimed,it continues to tour and has been selected to open the first edition of “Going Solo”,a theatre festival dedicated to one-person plays. Organised by Teamwork Productions,a Delhi-based artist management company,it will be held from October 19-21 at the Sophia Bhabha Hall,Kemp’s Corner. “With ‘Going Solo’,we want to capture the essence of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe — the largest arts festival in the world — in India,and get some of the most brilliant performers from across the world to gather here,” says Sanjoy Roy,Managing Director of Teamwork Productions,adding that the festival will be an annual affair.

Apart from Adolf,Utton will also present Churchill,a light-hearted play based on the life of the British Prime Minister,Winston Churchill. Joining him at the festival is popular theatre actor and television presenter from South Africa,Jailoshini Naidoo who will perform At The Edge. This is based on the tragedy of people from Castor Manor — a community from South Africa. The artistes will perform in Bangalore and Delhi before concluding their tour in Mumbai.

With several successful solo performances to his repertoire,Utton is known as the “master of the monologue” and is a favourite at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. His Adolf is simple yet stark. With only a table with a flickering lamp,a chair and a large Nazi banner with the swastika on it on stage,Hitler awaits his fall in a bunker in Berlin. He proudly reminisces over accomplishments while scathingly talking about Jews,gypsies and Slavs. As Hitler,not once does Utton take his eyes off the audience who he assumes are his loyal followers.


Even as the show talks about Hitler,Utton states that he is used only as a character to tell a larger story. “The idea was to explore how prejudices can be manipulated. I wanted to talk about racism and intolerance,and what better man to use than the most racist and intolerant of them all?” quips Utton. The actor admits that essaying the role of the most hated man in history is challenging. “Not only do I have to say a lot of evil things,but they should seem as though I believe them,” he says.

Contrasting in approach,Churchill demonstrates Utton’s range as he plays the late British leader’s bronze statue at the Parliament Square,London,that comes to life once a year. The 70-minute piece takes a comprehensive look at the life of the prime minister — his love for literature,his family and relationships,and being at the centre of the two World Wars. “Churchill happens in a very different setting. It is a lively and entertaining piece. There were many sides to Winston Churchill,which are a joy to play,” Utton says,adding that if he were to work on an Indian leader,it would be Mahatma Gandhi and his truly “inspiring story”.

While this is the third time Utton is performing in the country,it is Naidoo’s first in India. At The Edge narrates the story of Cato Manor — an area close to Durban in 1865. “Back then,Indian labourers were sent to South Africa and were given a piece of land with no infrastructure,” says the actor of Indian roots. “They did what Indians do best: gradually built the land into a thriving and vibrant community. But they were forced out of their homes in the 1950s under the Group Areas Act (a law passed under the apartheid government that segregated different races to specific areas in a locale),” she says. In the play,Naidoo tells the story of their unfair evacuation through 20 different characters: a school principal,a news reader,a drunk middle-aged man,a woman with a menial job,and an African American man. The story has four central stories,with sub-plots and anecdotes shared throughout the play. “Although the backdrop is grim,the storytelling is simple and engaging. Towards the end,I hope the audience gets attached to every character,” she says.