When Props Come to Lifehttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/when-props-come-to-life-2/

When Props Come to Life

With her new play,Choiti Ghosh takes the audience to a wonderland created with actors and objects.

FOR theatre actor Choiti Ghosh,it is necessary to touch objects and allow them to speak to her. She made her proclivity for Object Theatre apparent nearly two years ago — by attending workshops on it at Institut International de la Marionnette,France,in 2011 and then by staging A Bird’s Eye View,the first Indian play that belonged to this genre,a year later. Her latest play to breathe life into objects is Alice in Wonderland,that premiered at National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA),Mumbai,earlier this month.

With this production,Ghosh made some crucial departures from the first. She chose to remain off the stage and focus on direction. Being the lone practitioner of the art in the country,she had to first train the four actors who featured in it. “I have never viewed anything that I made objectively. So doing this was necessary for me,” says Ghosh,who watched it with the audience. However,some time into the play,she admits,it was difficult for her to stay objective. That apart,it was staged with four actors at a bigger space as compared to her earlier solo play. What remained constant were the objects and their role-playing that ignites the imagination of the audience.

In this adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland,a hand-held battery torch becomes a tunnel while a smiley-faced ball is Alice. Ice-trays were taken out of refrigerators to represent tall towers as a blown up Alice hovers over them. Toy autos and aeroplanes too come alive to take the story forward. “It’s not an actors’ theatre. So the actors had to be familiarised with the objects and this form of theatre first,” says Ghosh. Apart from that,actors Rachel D’Souza,Suraj Tomer,Rakhi Prasad and Vikas Jain underwent exercises to stay agile and improve their stamina. That helped them stay on their toes during the show.

One of the hiccups was to find certain products,which were earlier available but have now phased out. For instance,she could not find GI Joe figures in the market. Gradually,she learnt to trust objects lying around her more. According to Deepa Gahlot,head of programming — theatre and film at NCPA,Ghosh is very resourceful and uses the objects available around us well.

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Before Ghosh started picking up objects for this play,she found her mother Ruma Ghosh’s script based on Alice in Wonderland. “This became my route map and the final structure came out of it,” she says. However,she did not share this script with the cast. Instead,she spent a lot of time during their nearly four-month-long preparation period in devising and developing the play with them. Music plays an important role in the play. “Initially,we did not have songs. My father kept telling me that ‘you sing and how come your play does not have songs’,” she says,explaining what made her turn it into a musical.

Object theatre has given Ghosh the feeling of being a performer. “I have been on stage since I was three. However,just acting and delivering my lines does not give me artistic fulfilment. I am a performer and acting is just one part of it,” she says.

The Object Theatre practitioner now wants to line up shows of Alice in Wonderland till December. Though she has taken time from the actors,there is one hitch. She was so busy with putting together this production that she has not booked venues yet. Now,she is ready to stage it at all possible venues — in Mumbai and outside. “After all,that’s the idea behind Object Theatre. We should be able to perform anywhere,” she says.