Ranan's Crossings: Exploring the facets of Lady Macbeth
- Nita Vidyarthi
e-mail: nitavidyarthi@gmail.com
Photos courtesy: Ranan

March 29, 2017

Ranan's dance-theatre 'Crossings: Exploring the facets of Lady Macbeth' presented at the 3rd National Theatre Festival organised by Minerva Natyasanskriti Charchakendra at the Minerva Theatre, Kolkata, is a captivating artistic close-up imagery of Lady Macbeth's tender and tragic psychological space between crime and its consequences. The production was crafted, directed, choreographed and designed by dancer-choreographer-theatre director cum movement artist Vikram Iyengar. The idea of unpacking the original text and splitting up Lady Macbeth into four pieces stemmed in 2003 for the first production in 2004. Since then the production had constantly evolved and undergone a number of revivals distilling into a presentation that offers a fresh insight into the thematic arrangement that makes the play more accessible to the audience.

For the four aspects, Iyengar involved four forms and four artists - Debashree Bhattacharya, a seasoned Kathak dancer, Anubha Fathepuria, a Bharatanatyam dancer and also a well-known theatre actor, and two other theatre actors Dana Roy and Jayoti Chakravarty - to represent the facets of Lady Macbeth in constant conflict to create a fluid performance. This was woven from four strands comprising a verbal text constructed from the dialogue of the original play, a movement text drawn from dance, a musical text created in response to both moods and movement and a symbolic text crafted from the imagery in Shakespeare's Macbeth juxtaposed into a smooth aesthetic fabric.

The play opened with the actors reading the letters together. In chorus they declare, "The King comes here tonight," the pivotal line that underlines the subtext and the reflection of moods of the four characters that are really one (of Lady Macbeth).The director introduces here an interesting act of the ritualistic puja with flowers, incense, kumkum, lighted lamp (diya) and other accessories on the brass thali on the right hand corner of the stage in front, supposedly the altar. They call the spirits, "Come, you spirits." With intense expressions of concern and closed fists (as if to hold something strongly) the four move away radially. The audience gets to hear "Hail the King that shall be," time and again. With the diffused lighting and tabla theka, Debashree wishes "make thick my blood" and flows into a smart tukra, and a short tatkaar, beautifully supported by the meedh-laden song "Man hara mori re" in the delightfully sandy full-throated voice of Nageen Tanvir, and Dana's expressions, followed by the hush-hush "The King comes here tonight" by all. The play gains momentum from here with another cardinal point.

Iyengar dramatizes the act in between murder - the plan, the performance, the personal consequences - in the course of the play imaginatively through dance theatre and soul stirring music by Nageen Tanvir (vocal) and Siddhartha Bhattacharya (tabla). Actually the breakdown of the play started from the banquet scene when each one of the four starts breaking down, as each one has different ideas. Debashree portrays ambition and thinks of how to murder. Then she has to convince others. Jayoti (theatre actor) is never convinced. Then from four it goes back to one again. So there were different kinds of transformations and reasons for saying no. Petite Dana reflects being in equal partnership doing it for Macbeth if he deserves it. Anubha competently dawns a romantic vision that, "Oh if I were the Queen I would have been this… that…" Each one has a different reason for agreeing to the murder and the character of Lady Macbeth is clearly shown to be splitting and at the end of it completely breaking down.

While preparing for the King (The King comes here tonight!), the director plays on the idea of shringar in a very Indian way with all four dressing themselves up and helping each other with sandalwood paste, mogra, royal attire using a lighted panchapradeep! It was a visual delight, soothing and tender as the ambience was replete with the romantic folk song "Chun chun phoolwamein saaej sajawo" from the Bundelkhand region in Nageen's voice. But the idea of murder was on everyone's mind and had to be. The emotional isolation of this disguise of Lady Macbeth caused by the regicide begins even before the crime is committed and it's here that the director accentuates this isolation which is typical of Shakespearean tragedy with the use of mirrors, some old and cracked scattered all over the stage. The reflections of the characters (facets) in these mirrors bring forth their actual images and what images are being hidden. There are a number of references of disguise in the original text and Iyengar's idea of mirrors underscores this aspect of Lady Macbeth's character.

Shringar is reverted at this juncture by a sudden break in the rhythm of the tabla as Anubha clad majestically in a lovely violet silk saree takes a flight from shringar to an energetic Bharatanatyam nritya as Shakti. That she is not only a competent actor but a fine dancer was evident in her kinetic image that transforms energy to Debashree who performs a splendid taraana in medium tempo first and gradually increases it. The act is severe and gracious and by the variety of movements and postures, the stage flooded with red light, the shrieks of owl and the tribal song of lament "Chola mati ke naam" from the Chhattisgarh region say it all. Jayoti walks in at the end, wearing a net which shows the tussle, the uncertainty in her. She finally covers the whole stage with it enclosing the others to bring the splintered pieces together depicting death. By this time she is schizophrenic seeing blood everywhere. This scene is stark and hair-raising. All those wonderful made-up faces of the four actors suddenly change to red smeared with blood (Abir) and the white spotless napkins used in the banquet get spotted with blood (red). The act is intensified when the actors offer those spotted napkins to the audience. The play takes a full circle as it ends with the puja scene again burning the letters at the altar. Hence the director considers puja or worship as a prayer or a ritual for wanting to achieve anything positive or negative, auspicious or inauspicious.

'Crossings' has overall a physical and emotional brilliance. Adding to this are pulsating rare songs from the Bastar Gondi sub-dialect of Mandala in Bundelkhand. Use of ragas Darbari Kanada and Hindolam in the banquet scene offer a stillness and mystery while Purya Dhanasree, Malkauns and Sohini in the lullaby create a reflective melancholy of swirling emotions. Anubha Fathepuria and Debashree Bhattacharya juxtapose delicacy and discipline of classical dance with theatre but Anubha stands out for her portrayal of emotions. Jayoti and Dana fit into their roles and confront them with confidence.

'Crossings' is a meld of intensity, grace and exhilarating theatrical imagery to move and inspire. The design and direction by Vikram Iyengar prove his understanding of not just the text and the subtext in terms of spoken words but "how movement can be a subtext, can be read, not just performed and can be used to create a dramatic graph."

Dr. Nita Vidyarthi is a veteran critic of performing arts and writes on dance, music and theatre in leading publications.