BENGALURU : Soon after beginning the rehearsals for Every Brilliant Thing, Vivek Madan shifted into a new house. And in light of the current scenario, this innocuous move meant the entire setting for the play would have to change. The play, directed by Quasar Thakore Padamsee, features Madan in the sole role in the story. It has travelled across 40 stages since its premiere in March last year, but it is being performed online for the first time now. “Everything we planned in terms of my movement or the height of the camera changed according to the new house. We wouldn’t have encountered this challenge in a stage show,” says Bengaluru-based theatre person Madan.
The team, which worked together remotely from different cities, spent 20 days rehearsing. For a stage show, they needed one crew member on lighting and another on sound. “But for the online version, we needed six crew members. All for one person!,” exclaims Madan. Thakore Padamsee, however, is quick to add, “This is not theatre being done online because it never can be online. This is us as theatre people reinventing the experience digitally through an online live performance medium.”
The play, penned by British writers Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe, is a story of love, family, mental health, and a list of all the wonderful things in the world. This version was adapted to add local elements, such as setting the main character’s childhood – just like Madan’s – in Bengaluru, while also featuring Mumbai and Delhi. And though Madan is the sole actor – who plays the son of a woman who died by suicide – he is not the only character. Following the live participative format, the story calls for audience members to take the story forward. Madan explains, “I pick viewers to help me tell a particular part of the story. For instance, I call on someone to play my father where we discuss how having a conversation about what was happening with my mother would have helped.”
Since the proceedings hinge on an audience member’s spontaneity, Madan had to prepare himself for every possible reaction. During practice, a co-actor, Robbin Singh, presented different situations. “His only job was to make my life hell,” laughs Madan. “We played all scenarios we could think of – when someone says no to playing a character, when they are too soft, when they read a line too slow, or speak in broken English.” While Madan was fairly prepared for a stage setting, the online world has its own set of obstacles. “I have to look into my laptop’s camera instead of the screen. So I can’t notice their expressions, and connecting with them becomes a challenge,” he says.
The 80-minute play is followed by a discussion with mental health experts. Interestingly, Madan, who was drawn to the lack of artifice in the play, accepted it before even reading the script. “I hope people realise it is okay to not be okay. And that we need to talk about mental health more,” he adds. Agrees Thakore Padamsee, who says, “Maybe the audience members could find a sense of community through this play – a feeling like they are not alone in this strange time.”The play will be performed online on July 24 and 25, at 6pm. Tickets available on Paytm Insider.