Man to Man
- Padma Jayaraj,
'Man to Man' tells
the poignant tale of the Woman pitted against Man. It is a post-modern
production with a strong message that points to the war-torn scenario of
our present day reality. The play, put up consecutively for four evenings
from 31st August to 3rd September at Goethe-Hall, Max Mueller Bhavan, Mumbai,
addresses the international community.
Theatre Co. Production, it is a collaborative effort between performer
Jyoti Dogra, video artist Tejal Shah, and director Rehaan Engineer. "The
text found footage from The Yellow Star - The Persecution of Jews
in Europe by Dieter Hildebrandt; Hitler a Career, by Joachim Fest;
Un Chant d'amour by Jean Genet; Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari
by Robert Wein; Plain Truth by llppo Poljolla; The Shape of the
Gaze by Maia Cybelle Carpenter."
play 'Man to Man' is staged as a multimedia presentation that caters to
the intimacy of an audience, just 30 in number, seated in a circle with
four TV sets and two screens on two sides. Within the stage, a trouser
and two pairs of footwear, minimalist props, evoke the absurd theatre.
Light falls on one woman seated among the audience. "'You can get used
to anything in time' as my old dad would say, 'even good news,'" she says.
In the immediacy of the stage and the spectators, the play establishes
a closeness from the very beginning. And the audience is alerted with an
implicit finger pointed to it.
The play begins
in a stifling atmosphere of a male military-dominated land that tries to
grapple with the identity of a human being. Then a collage follows intersected
by flowing music and expressive lighting. Fairy tales, of Snow White
and the Seven Dwarfs and that of the Queen obsessed with the Magic
Mirror, are evoked. "White as snow, red as blood, black as ebony..." in
the beginning, at the end and endlessly blinked on the TV screen, create
a climate within which the narrative operates.
is specified as part of Germany bordering France. War destroys the childhood
and innocence of a girl of seven. The father leaves home; mother falters
and falls ill; the burden of housework and later life itself is a cross
on a child's shoulder, crushing all her spirits. This is the destiny of
a woman in a military-dominated country whether it is Israeli-Arab border,
the mullah-reigning troubled space, where autocracy is in control, where
terror strikes, or even in India when the State fails. The story of Ella
tells how love and romance is alien in such a place. It is cancerous diseases,
strenuous work, untimely death, and violent sex that punctuate a woman's
existence. Of course she gets used to abject misery; years pass; old age
with its loneliness and helplessness is just another period before death
calls for the final curtain on her life.
unravels itself when Ella Geric, the protagonist in Karge's text assumes
the identity of her dead husband. It is for survival that she hides her
identity. Poverty drives her to work as a crane operator in Weimar, Germany.
Troubled times make life impossible for her. Her strength lies in
her ability to endure the test of misery. In another sense here is the
story of what Man has done to Woman, an eternal theme since the dawn of
The play is
a one-woman show, a powerful rendering by Jyoti Dogra. The TV screens are
effectively used for emphasizing ideas without distracting the attention
from the central character. The two screens on two sides project war background
from films that echo the times of Napoleon and Hitler. Human lives lived
among these traumatised periods, against changing seasons, gives a cinematic
dimension. The dialogue between the character on the stage and her persona
on the screen is an effective dramatic stroke used to create nuances. The
political overtones underline its contemporary relevance. Music, incorporated
from masters like, J S Bach, Franz and others, increases the dramatic tempo
of the play. Lighting has a lyrical quality. Without obtruding, it enhances
the theme in ironic contrast. When the play ends, the picture of the defeated
dying army of Napoleon trudging home, the sheer sense of waste captured
in Tolstoy's "War and Peace" lingers on the screen on the wall. The unrelieved
gloom it creates, that we do not learn from history, that we who put up
with injustice are the real perpetrators of the crime, rings loud in our
has portrayed the suffering and the strength of a woman facing the wall
all through her life, with great poignancy. The entire monologue for an
hour and half is a powerful recreation of a woman's inner self as she is
forced to assume the identity of a man. Stark reality is painted in broad
grey strokes in realistic gestures.
the director, is a co-founder of The Industrial Theater Co. It has been
engaged in theatre and film from 2001 onwards. Every production has been
lauded by critics and viewers alike. Trained at the RADA, Rehaan Engineer
currently lives and works in Mumbai, directing and acting in theatre and
film. 'Man to Man' is a wake-up call with a philosophic dimension.
Jayaraj is a freelance journalist. She covers fine arts and travel for
The Hindu, and is a regular contributor to narthaki.com