SHOMA A.CHATTERJI | 17 JULY, 2019
Pieces - A Strikingly Unique One-Woman Show
Presentation: Padatik and Rikh
Performer: Anubha Fatehpuria
Staged at Padatik
Script, Design and Direction: Vinay Sharma
Pieces cannot be called a “play” in the common sense understanding of the word. It would be appropriate to call it a “performance” because there is no fixed narrative in terms of content and also in terms of form. Produced under the banner of “rikh” and directed by Vinay Sharma, it is a one-woman performance by the talented and many-faceted Anubha Farehpuria who has an excellent track record as a versatile actress and performing artist.
“Rikh” means “to scratch”, “to tear up the ground” to engrave, inscribe, trace a line, delineate an outline which that occurs in the Rig Veda where it involved violent action. There is no visible violence in Pieces but the violence runs at a rather subterranean level, just under the surface, simmering, waiting to burst out but never actually bursting out. Or maybe, bursting out in different ways through the performance itself reflected in the dozens of rectangular mirrors scattered across the performance space.
Solo performances are an issue with a mass audience especially if they are comprised of an anti-linear script as the viewer has to contend with a form of expression he/she is not familiar with. Pieces is most certainly an abstract performance because it has been prepared as a collage adapted from the writings of playwrights and authors beginning with the 17th to the early 20th Century all from Western literature. But the actual performance appears as if the pieces are as contemporary as the present and do not seem either outdated or passé.
Is that because of the performance? Or is it for the threading and picking of the “pieces” by Vinay Sharma who has not only directed but also presented and designed the play? The term “design” here does not link itself with designing in its physically real dimensions but more on the way these pieces are strung together like a garland strung with different flowers but with one common thread running through it – woman, here, there, everywhere yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Actor and architect Anubha Fatehpuria glides in and out of these portrayals of different women – or is it the same woman – who may or may not be an actress. The message that comes across is that women are always play-acting in real life so acting as a profession is not really a novel artistic endeavour by them. Fatehpuria opens the play where we find her making faces into an imaginary mirror to see if she is looking okay just before the final bell goes for some show to begin.
While doing this, she is also conversing with someone who has come to meet her, who remains off-scene for the audience. She then puts on a white half-mask that covers half her face and continues to portray different characters women can easily identify with in different forms and expressions.
Sometimes, they consist of monologues by the woman herself, questioning herself about Life per se, about her own identity and her relationships with the people she loves or has fallen out of love or hates but cannot express these. In some of these, she is not really acting in front of an imaginary audience. But in some others, she becomes an actress performing in front of an imaginary audience, inviting them not just to watch passively but also to participate and interact with her and understand her inner struggles with herself, with her interactions in life and with others.
Pieces, according to this critic, is not a monologue. It extends the parameters of a monologue which, in common understanding, is a dialogue with oneself, Pieces is a dialogue with an imaginary “other” – the audience, a husband, a lover, a friend, a rival, the director of the play being performed and much, much more.
Fatehpuria is so spontaneous and her performance is so organic that it is difficult to believe that it must have been backed by rigorous workshop and rehearsal sessions. This architect combines theatre with her profession but keeps them distinctly different and has been performing in all kinds of plays down the years. To take on an entire audience alone is no child’s play and Pieces is perhaps a classic example of this. One only rues the viewer being robbed of the real experience of watching her eyes which are cleverly cloaked with that mask which she takes off only at certain moments of pause.
Sharma has used only Black-and-White in designing the props and the lights and even the costume of the performing artist perhaps as a symbol of the polarities of Black and White we live in and which define our lives and lifestyles. The abundance of mirrors right across the space is a reflection of the many faces the woman in the play wears – as a woman and as an actress performing on stage. The music is kept at a low key so that it does not tend to drown the action.
Like Jyoti Dogra’s Notes on Chai, Fatehpuria in Pieces has turned this piece of solo acting on its head to make a strong, socio-political statement on contemporary life, relationships, and human interaction making optimum use of not only her body but also every feature of her vocal and facial elements.
The art of acting lies in showing and sharing an action, image, character or story. It is rooted in the present-tense encounter of actor with actor and/or actor with audience. This stress on the philosophy of ‘the actor is the play’ has been reinforced through the entire performance of Fatehpuria in Pieces.