Written by Alia
Imagine you are standing on the beach, the sea at your back, your feet anchored in smooth sand. Imagine you are with a group of people who are not quite strangers. Easy warmth exists between you all, a camaraderie. As the sea rises, you all climb into a boat and sail away into the sunset.
So the deal with ‘Theatre on the Beach‘ is that everything you just imagined can come true.
The Bookworm Library’s community theatre initiative had been floundering for its first few months. So this month- October- almost last minute, we transposed it onto the beach. Suddenly, things took a turn for the unexpected.
After some solid publicity, and planning with a sort of manic hopefulness, it began to rain the day before the first session. Accu-weather (an online forecaster) predicted we’d have 47% rainfall through the whole thing. My logic thereafter was simple- anyone enthusiastic and eccentric (in the best possible way) enough to turn up to do theatre on the beach, probably wouldn’t mind getting rained on in the process. We went full-steam ahead.
And it exceeded our expectations. A group of nine- including fellow book-worms Trishala and Niju-came together through a continual drizzle. The focus of the workshops were body, and movement- essential elements of physical theatre. This fitted in beautifully with the primal quality of the beach.
We were a motley crew: a college lecturer, an editor, a PhD scholar, a molecular biologist, a dentist, a fashion designer- amongst others- who did an assortment of bizarre activities with total ease. From passing energy in sounds and gestures round the group, to embodying bees, to forming machines in groups, to depicting emotions through abstract still-pictures, to dancing in a circle humming “lalalalalalala”, to rushing into the sea…
Then there was the moment when we decided to prank two of our participants. We formed a huddle, waited until they approached, and then ran at poor Jyotsna and Maitreyi, screaming….
I’m not sure what onlookers may have thought, but the sound of the choppy waves and our deranged laughter harmonized perfectly.
Our second session saw the weather hitting another extreme. This time it was sultry. The sand was like fire. The beach was overflowing with hard-corehardcore tourists, and architecture students. The group that joined us was almost entirely new- except Atul and Niju.
One of my die-hard supporters and a drama educator herself- my mother- was thrilled to attend it. Lucy and Megha travelled a long way to join us. Both are teachers with experience in theatre (Lucy has taught physical theatre for 8 years). Two photographers- one from the Times of India and one from the Navhind Times- came to cover the event, and to their dismay, were immediately co-opted as participants. Needless to say, both rose to the occasion, and were a strong addition to the group. We also had two seven year olds who came with Yshana- both Bookworm members, who joined us for some of the games. Eventually, there were twelve of us.
This session was more complex than the previous one. We had two full scenes improvised, in a game called “the Hulk”. Even the warm-up exercises (a choral singing of “Row, row, row your Boat”, the cognitive conundrum “Jump, clap, stop, walk”, just watching the sea) demanded more of the participants: more energy, more attentiveness. We also played a game called “family portrait”, that saw lots of hilarious sub-text bleed into a 30-second freeze. The final game- ‘Devolution’- had us de-evolving- walking backwards as we morphed from humans through other mammals, then avians, then reptiles, then amphibians, and finally, merging with the primordial soup of the sea.