Wednesday, January 18, 2012
An avant garde Polish play strikes a beautiful note but remains incoherent
The play was performed at Abhimanch at the National School of Drama at New Delhi at 8.30 pm on January 18, Wednesday
Marta Gornicka's play, The Chorus of Women, has a libretto compiled from Sophocles'Antigone, Hollywood film Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider, recipes and commercials and Polish fairytales, holds together because of the manner in which it was presented. Like the chorus in the Greek tragedy, but without its strophe and anti-strophe movements, Gornicka's uses effectively the classical chorus mode with its emotional interpretation of events and its gloomy pronouncements, on the state where about 18 women stand on the stage first in the choir formation and slowly and gradually break into little groupings, and including the lying down on the stage in almost Pina Bausch fahion, holds the attention of the audience for 45 minutes, the duration the play. The Polish, which is unintelligible to an audience has English subtitles on the white screen at the back of the stage has a hypnotic quality. It is musical, lyrical and laconic. It does not matter what the words mean, though the director assures us in in a note: "A modern day tragic chorus composed of women of various professions and various ages. It undermines linguistic cliches and reveals the language in its ideological dimension; it speaks with the words of excluded texts."
But immediately after this, Gornicka speaks of a more important aspect of drama. She writes: "The modern drama broke up with the chorus, thus depriving itself of a certain dimension of the tragic. We must restore the chorus to the stage and find new forms of its theatrical presence; we have restore women to the chorus. The chorus of women will shout, whisper and sing. It will treat words as music. It will change language into voice. It will initiate its subversive force."
That last sentence was indeed suprefluous. The idea of restoring the chorus to the stage is a brilliant idea. And so is the chorus of women, which is a familiar sigh to the classical Greek theatre audiences.
Gronicka has experimented as to what to do with this this chorus of women. What we see in this play is a nice experiment. But it has more to it than what she has shown. In this play Gornicka proves the point that chorus can tell a serious story and comment on it. But she should remember that the chorus is part of a play and not the whole play. Hopefully this young singer and theatre director will be able to find a playwright who will write a play and incorporate the chorus in it. The chorus itself cannot become a play though it certainly can be a performance as it is in this one. Rebellion and experiment are good. But they cannot stay there.
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