BENGALURU: Puneet Gupta had just finished directing a romantic comedy production and was awaiting a script that would intrigue his directorial will, and boy did one Irish playwright impress with his black comedy.
Intriguing indeed, especially for someone who has been into theatre for over 15 years now. “The script for The Pillowman came up in a casual conversation with someone. I took it up and three pages into it, I was hooked. I didn’t put it down until I finished it. It was serendipity,” says Puneet.
The play is set in an imaginary dictatorial society, the play begins when a writer is brought in for interrogation. He is questioned regarding a series of gruesome child murders bearing striking similarities to his stories. Just like the manner of the killings, the investigating detectives are ruthless and show no mercy in trying to get a confession.
They even drag the writer’s mentally challenged brother amidst a tangle of fantastical revelations, whimsical stories and peeling layers of what seems to be the truth. Eventually a punishment is delivered and justice is served.
Martin McDonagh’s play received the 2004 Olivier Award for Best New Play, the 2004-5 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best New Foreign Play, and two Tony Awards for production. It was nominated for the 2004 Evening Standard Award for Best New Play.
Other than the words, what pushed Puneet to pick up the script for his next directorial venture with Mad Hats theatre? “It was this one line that goes - The first duty of a storyteller is to tell a story, but is it the only duty? I was so struck by that question. There’s no yes or no to that question. I had no answer,” he says.
The 38-year-old plays with shadows along with the actors to build up the mystery and storyline of this play published in 2003. “During the interrogation part, details of the children murders come up which relates to the stories that this writer has published. We have used shadows here and left it to the audience’ imagination to interpret how those stories connect to the murder plots,” says Puneet
Quite often described by a spellbounding stunner, the story gets darker as the main character - the writer loses innocence with each new development.
“This was one of the most challenging roles I have done in my career so far,” says Varun Kainth who plays the writer.
As the play opens with the interrogation scene of the author, how well did Varun prepare to build up that level of intensity and mystery withing the opening? “I do a 30-45 minute long preparation before going on stage. I even let Varun, my director, go. I am one with the character during that time and when it is time I enter the stage,” he says.
So, how does a actor train self to do a mystery role? Varun says it is 65% experimenting, rehearsing and then rest is about learning from other actors and workshops.
“One plays with a lot of pauses while playing up mystery. Pauses are of different duration throughout the scene,” says Varun.
Catch The Pillowman from November 18-27, 8pm (Tuesay-Saturday), 3:00pm and 6:30pm (Sunday) at Jagriti Theatre.