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Freud and Flashback - Glimpses into World Drama
Photos courtesy the theatre groups

June 28, 2018

The Bratyajan International Theatre Festival 2018 - bringing to the eastern metropolis the vignettes of experiments being carried in the domain of theatre in remote corners of the world - has now touched its seventh year. The brainchild of Bratya Basu, an accomplished theatre artist, playwright and director, the festival aims at evolving a theatre consciousness among the spectators in this part of the country about the varieties of productions that are metamorphosing the course of this art form everywhere and are pointers to new directions. Basu, who is reaching his own half century only next year, is already a formidable force to reckon with in the cultural milieu in the metropolis and with his inspiring guidance, the festival is scaling new horizons every year.

Here is a sampling of the fare from Russia and Egypt for this year.

Sigmund Freud (1856 - 1939), the iconic Austrian neurologist and founder of 'psycho-analysis' - - a clinical method for treating psychological disorders - has been described as "the Sherlock Holmes of the Mind." He lived and worked in Vienna all his life, having set up his clinical practice there, but had to flee Austria in the pre-World War years to escape the Nazis. In creating 'psycho-analysis', in a nutshell, Freud developed techniques of using free association, establishing its central role in the analytical process. Interestingly, Freud's re-definition of 'sexuality' to include its infantile forms led him to formulate the famous 'Oedipus complex' as the central tenet of psycho-analytical theory. His analysis of 'dreams' as wish-fulfillments provided him with models for the clinical analysis of symptoms and underlying mechanisms of repression. On this basis, Freud elaborated his theory of the 'unconscious' and went on to develop a model of psychic structure comprising 'id', 'ego' and 'super-ego' familiar to everybody. Freud postulated also the existence of 'libido', an energy with which mental processes and structures are invested and which generate erotic attachments; and a 'death drive', the source of compulsive repetition, hate, aggression and neurotic guilt.

Freud, presented at the festival on May 30 by School of Modern Drama and GITIS from Russia, put across in visual details - with teams of scientists and researchers - - how the great scientist formulated, elaborated and encapsulated much of the above theory. The play also depicted many of the key events from his personal life that influenced his unique individual traits. The young Freud is seen rapt in embrace with his one abiding love, surrounded by other equally amorous couples. Dream sequences recur: with white sheets camouflaging the sleeping beings or their being carried to and fro. Challenges are thrown at him by scientists and students, and rebutted with equal vehemence. Wide ranging interpretation and critique of religion and culture come for deliberation, with Christ like stoic figure stuck up on the rampart. The latter is also used as a coffin for his last journey, with his students and well-wishers serving as pall bearers.

Excerpts from interview with the director Alexander Tsoy:
What was the source of Freud's biographical events for your play?
We used the definitive biography of Freud written by Paul Ferris. It enumerates, in great details, the events that influenced his own personality.

How did you view his personality?
He loved to seem strict and undefiled, inaccessible to ordinary temptations. He sought to be the embodiment of noble rationalism, but he always had the shadow of a more vulnerable person.

How did you construct the play?
When we created the play, I thought it was just not theatre, but a whole laboratory which we studied, understood and delved. The final version of the play is one of a hundred proposed, and has all the charms that we, Freud's children, “felt” from all sides!

Would you like to mention any one trait of Freud that attracted you most?
Why was a man - who lived all his life with one woman - so interested in the topic of sex, desires and animal human nature? What trace did the first love leave in him?

Romeo and Juliet, the very well-known play written by William Shakespeare, is set in Italy and is about the love between two young people from noble families that are enemies. Romeo and Juliet has always been one of the Bard's most popular plays, having been adapted to opera, ballet, television productions and movies round the world.

Flashback presented at the festival on May 31 by the Center of Artistic Creativity from Egypt, presented an encapsulated version of the story, when Romeo recalls all the events he and Juliet have been through until he decides to take his own life just as she presumably did. Indeed, the play begins with Romeo carrying the faked dead body of his ladylove and staring vacantly at the horizon, ruminating. The action then goes back to the initial ballroom dance scene where Romeo fell in love with Juliet and the latter coyly responded. Romeo, later, passes by Juliet's abode and the two renew their pledge to each other. Against the cyclorama motif of a church with its large cross, the duo ties their knot.

Following the family feud, Juliet's cousin kills Romeo's companion and in a quick-silver reprisal, gets killed by Romeo. Juliet's sorrow knows no bounds, but love wins the day. Romeo is banished but pines for Juliet. A ploy to fake death by Juliet - to fool her family - is mistaken for real by Romeo, back to the beginning of the flashback. Romeo proceeds to kill self and the re-awakened Juliet follows suit, culminating the most tragic love story of all times.

Directed by Mohamed Habib, the story is simply told with minimal stage action but plenty of dance by the petite Juliet (Hany Mohamed Hasan Abdelshakour) and soulful pentatonic Middle East music, executed by Osama Fawzy Abdelfattah Abdelbaky.

There is one suggestion to the organizers - all foreign plays, dominated by dialogue instead of physical theatre, should be accompanied by distribution of scene-wise, English summary to the viewers. Short of sub-titles, this will serve to help comprehension.

Dr. Utpal K Banerjee is a scholar-commentator on performing arts over last four decades. He has authored 23 books on Indian art and culture, and 10 on Tagore studies. He served IGNCA as National Project Director, was a Tagore Research Scholar and is recipient of Padma Shri.

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