Vinay Sharma’s new script (his considered choice of label, rather than “play”) exemplifies postmodern bricolage – a text that comprises excerpts from many other texts, where Sharma’s own written contribution amounts to perhaps 5% of the whole. Hence the title of the rikh- and Padatik production, Pieces. Many postmodernists argue that artists cannot have anything new to say, for everything has already been said. All we can do is rearrange content in an original form.
That is what Sharma has done so incisively. Sampling women’s speeches from mainly 19th-century European drama (Congreve’s Way of the World, 1700, the notable exception) and setting them in a theatrical scenario as if enacted by one performer going on stage to do multiple roles, he creates simultaneously a disturbing chronicle of what “modern” women went through, a unified relatable narrative of what they still endure (since only the handout reveals how old the monologues are), and a psychological probing of actresses having to portray such vulnerable characters. Pieces makes a fine companion piece to his earlier Yahān, which used ancient Indian sources.
Sharma can achieve this depth only with a versatile actor, and Anubha Fatehpuria most certainly fits the bill in, surprisingly, her first solo show. She sets the scene with Ferenc Molnar’s Famous Actress reassuring worried ladies that their husbands often concoct affairs with her to regain their attention. Comic or piteous, romantic or supercilious, she flits in and out of classic authors from Chekhov (Ivanov and Seagull) to Woolf (Lighthouse and Dalloway), as well as less-known plays not normally revived: Maupassant’s Peace of the Family, on the helplessness of a wife treated as a possession, and the wronged wife in Strindberg’s The Stronger. Other eminences include Hermann Sudermann (Margot), Arthur Schnitzler (Big Scene), Susan Glaspell’s feminist Bernice, and Eugene Brieux’ Julie freeing herself from a loveless marriage in The Three Daughters of M. Dupont.
Memorably, the silences when she goes offstage into a visible private space to take off her mask and catch her breath, reflect the drained self that actors experience. Puppet-like movements express the dictatorial nature of the director – often male, as here. A brief allusion to Punch and Judy makes us uncomfortably aware of violence on women, which some of her portraits themselves suffer. Sharma’s black design employing many mirrors, lights of novel kinds (see photograph) and looped music and sound convey the sense of being in a theatre, the darkness of the theme and the circular repetitiveness of the stories.
(From The Times of India, 23 August 2019)