The protagonists of Futureproof are freaks of a wide range. There is an armless bearded woman, an evenly-split hermaphrodite, a mermaid, a pair of conjoint twins and the self-proclaimed world’s fattest man called Tiny. “Yet, the monsters in the play are outside. They are the people who, stupefied with boredom, have a black-and-white idea of what normal should be,” says Futureproof director Amba Suhasini Jhala. The play will open at OddBird Theatre in Chhatarpur in Delhi on May 6.
The freaks are part of a travelling company called Riley’s Odditorium that, thanks to Darwinism and other advances in science, is on its last leg. Tastes have changed and people are no longer comfortable gaping at abnormal bodies through a peep hole. Owner Robert Riley must innovate or perish. “The way he chooses to save his Odditorium is to normalise. It is a harebrained scheme to give up the things that make the protagonists odd,” says Jhala, “Aren’t we also living in an era of xeroxing of personality? The rulebook that says you are valid is written by the mass market.” A trailer of the play shows body parts being marked with broken black lines such as precedes a cosmetic surgery.
Futureproof, written by Ireland-based Lynda Radley, enters the global discourse on homogenisation and suspicion of the other through a plotline ridden with conflicts and uncertainties. “The pressure of homogenisation in societies all over the world has become intimate, insidious and tyrannical. Strangeness doesn’t have to be otherness and that is what we must join forces to fight. That’s what we, as the cast and crew of this production, are trying to do,” says Jhala.
Several familiar names from Delhi pack the ensemble, beginning with Anirudh Nair, famous for William Shakespeare productions, as Riley. Futureproof is the first play by the group, called Guild of the Goat, started by Nair, Pranay Manchanda and Jhala. Jhala, who has been on stage since childhood, trained at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. Her style is minimalist and focuses on the actor’s body and performance. In Futureproof, however, she has opted for innovative sets and elaborate costumes. “The group has fallen on such hard times that they had to eat their horse, so a cart is a part of the set. We are not trying to recreate a freak show because that can be horrifying. This is more like recreating a world of a group of travelling performers, some of whom are different from us,” says Jhala.
The play will be staged at OddBird Theatre in Delhi on May 6 and 7 and May 11-14.
Entry: Rs 300-500 at insider.in