Q's Countdown



10 Plays that closed too early

Of late the number of shows that a play does in Bombay has grown immensely. Earlier on it was usual for a play to do 12 shows or so and complete it's run. But now 50 shows is not out of reach, and the century mark is being hit quite often. Even my plays, seem to be reaching 25 with regularity. That's a true sign of the changing times. So I thought it might be a good time to take stock of plays that should really have gone on to 'wow' audiences but their life was cut short for some reason or the other.
  1. Life in the Theatre: Directed by Zubin Driver this two hander had Akash Khurana as the old retiring actor, and Denzil Smith as the up and coming star. I never saw it, but it was apparently a very powerful piece of theatre. Simply done, with minimal props and set the play was an intense journey into the ego of the actor. It shut after only 2 (or 4) shows. A real pity. It was supposed to be a performance treat.

  2. All About My Mother: Based on Almoldovar's film, the show opened a little shakily but really grew by leaps and bounds by it's next run. Unfortunately rights issues have denied Bombay audiences of a show that promised to be a runaway hit. The performances of Puja Sarup and Anand Tiwari were truly memorable.

  3. Jazz: Ramu Ramanathan's beautiful historical journey through 'catholic' Bollywood. Starring Bugs Bhargava and wonderfully directed by Etienne Coutinho, the play was a real treat. It should have run forever. The script was taut, the performances were great and Reese's Saxaophone playing was sublime. But unfortunately the show didn't seem to be able to keep going.

  4. Birthday Party: I'm a bit biased on this one, because it is one of ours. We ran it for only 3 shows. The reason why I think its a pity it closed too early is because it robbed Bombay audiences of one of the finest performances I have ever seen of Dolly Thakore (yet more bias!). But Arghya's direction of the Pinter classic was quite immaculate. The cast were really terrific, and had we more balls as a production house, we probably would have kept it going for a bit.

  5. Arabian Night: Directed by Ramu Ramanathan, this weird German play in English was a visual treat. The red and white colour scheme of the design (both costume and set) and the intricate and bizarre story were fantastic. Enduring images were Sanjay "Elvis" Lafonte trapped in the lift and Jaimini's turtle character.

  6. Blackbird 13: It's kind of hard to do a list like this and not have at least ONE Rehaan Engineer play. So if I had to choose one then this was it. Blackbird 13 had no plot. Just a myriad of images and a magical light design in all blue by that mad firm Lahiri&Kriplani. The performers were excellent, Giles Chuyen's choreography bold and although I didn't understand most of it, it still moved me in parts. I was able to surrender to the absence of plot and just be moved by the images. Lovely.

  7. Pigs on the Wing: Thespo has come a long way since plays only ran there. Now plays have a life outside the festival. But way back in 2002 that was not the case. The wonderfully original Pigs on the Wing written by Apoorva Kale and directed by Akarsh Khurana was on par with any play running at the time even in the 'professional' theatre. They swept Thespo and then even did a couple of shows at PL Deshpande. There is talk of a new version. Hopefully it will happen.

  8. Voices: Another play by a young group, although directed by Atul Kumar. It made for the most unique of theatre experiences. Some argue that it did run it's course. But it was still an amazing experience of monologues with actors wading in a pool of water. All this on the stages of Prithvi, NCPA and NGMA. Although technically a National College production, the play had many admirers in the senior theatre ranks.

  9. Turel: The play premiered at Writer's Bloc 2 and died soon after. A incredibly intense story with great performances by Kumudh Mishra and Nagesh Bhonsale. Sunil Shanbag's direction of the story set in a village in Manipur was very powerful. Swar Thounajom's script deserved a few more stagings.

  10. Skeleton Woman: The most recent play to join the list. It only played four times in Bombay. I actually never got a chance to see the final production. I did see a rehearsal and a drawing room rehearsal before it opened. I enjoyed it immensely. The writing and performances by Kalki Koechlin and Prashanth Prakash was not only crisp, but fresh as well. I still have a faint hope that one day better sense will prevail and they will bring the show back.
That's the ten for now. If you think I have missed any deserving candidates do let me know. And we can argue over them.

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