The Action Players last presented a regular show in Calcutta in 1989 (Satyajit Ray’s Patol Babu, Film Star), so expectations ran high for Dancing Dolphins, premiered on September 4 at Gyan Manch. However, one must record a tinge of disappointment that TAP appears to be backtracking, neither matching nor going beyond the superlative Patol Babu.

That play proved that this tremendously talented troupe can handle a sustained drama with class and sensitivity. One had hoped that its greater maturity now would lead to further progress in this direction—perhaps another full-length theatrical production. But the snippety nature of Dancing Dolphins is retrogressive: TAP can do these things with a snap of its fingers; it needs something more challenging.

Zarin Chaudhuri gives the three dramatizations from Vikram Seth’s Beastly Tales bold, contemporary interpretations, of which The Hare and the Tortoise (showing how public relations can even misrepresent facts) succeeds the best, whereas The Monkey and the Crocodile suffers because it is poetically uninspired—not TAP’s fault, but Seth’s.

Jannan Abbas predictably steals the show with “Roadside Barber”: his mime has become so precise that he requires a minimum of movements to make a point, and his evocation of the pathos in the barber’s profession is just masterful. But the surprise find is Gopal Bhattacharya, whose malleable face works wonders as a sleepy typist in “Office Blues”, a Sly Stallone look-alike in “Miss World”, a dodo villain in “Film Shooting” and the stodgy Tortoise in Seth’s tale.

The “Tapestry of Movement” comprising the second half consisted of coordinated patterns choreographed by Astad Deboo. Unfortunately, many of the routines did not mark any significant advance over the workshop TAP had with Deboo in 1991 (and during these years MTV has completely changed modern dance). Doubly unfortunate, Deboo chose to come onstage, back to the audience, and lead the company, an off-putting technique that turned us into spectators of aerobic exercises, not improvised performance. CouIdn’t TAP follow one of its own in the front line? The second movement, in which four male-female pairs manoeuvred round cube-like props, was the most creative.

(From The Telegraph, 20 September 1993)