Imagine this. The sky has fallen. Human beings are confined to super luxurious rooms with large machines. With androids at their beck and call, all their needs are catered to. The only way they experience the world outside is through virtual gadgets. And the question — how much of human are they — is what prompted Yuki Ellias, a Mumbai-based theatre actor, debut as a director with Charge.
In January, Ellias discovered the play, written by Eric Kaiser, accidentally, on the internet. “The play is more of a fantasy and deals with our hidden desires and dreams. Straight-laced realism plays don’t interest me,” she says. Impressed, she immediately shot a mail to the Brooklyn-based playwright. Kaiser responded in 20 minutes, asking her to go ahead with plans of staging it in Mumbai.
This turned out to be an interesting vehicle for the debut of the actor, known for movement-based work. The two central characters — glued to their gadgets — hardly move out of their bed. The play revolves around a married couple who live in one room and have their every whim catered to by androids. “I chose text over movement this time. I was drawn to exploring our dependence on technology and the disconnection of human existence,” admits Ellias who has retained the original title of the play.
A student of Jaques Lecoq International School for Theatre in Paris and London International School of Performing Arts (LISPA), she was recently seen as Brooke in Noises Off — a role she reprised after nearly a decade — and a mask comedy It’s Not Waht You Tihnk!. In the latter, she plays four characters: a sassy Marathi-speaking house help; an old and horny woman; a young apprentice to a singer; and a vulturous journalist.
However, her first major international break came in 2006, soon after she graduated from Jaques Lecoq, when she played Hermia in the UK-based Tim Supple’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. “Jaques Lecoq trained us more in miming and clowning. During my two years there, I had hardly used text. While working with Tim, I learnt how to work with text and how to use it as an actor. This gave me a balance. I got a chance to marry both the worlds — physical theatre and text,” recalls Ellias, who also made the film Love You To Death (2012) with her father, photographer Rafeeq Ellias.
After Charge, Ellias does not have plans of taking up direction anytime soon. “I want to act. Theatre is a tangible medium. As I grow older, I am going to work with newer mediums. This is the first time I have worked with projections,” says Ellias. Later this year, she will act in a play she is co-writing. It is about young Vinayak in search of his missing head, set against the backdrop of Ganpati processions, and might need her to perform on a truck.