How Saki’s Death Trap inspired Chakravyuh, a play by Chennai’s Theatrix Dramatics Society

Saki’s one-act play Death Trap gets an Indian makeover in the latest production by Theatrix Dramatics Society  

Karan Pillai Published :  18th January 2019 02:33 PM   |   Published :   |  18th January 2019 02:33 PM
A scene from rehearsals of Chakravyuh

A scene from rehearsals of Chakravyuh

There are a lot of things that make Chakravyuh, the latest play by city-based group Theatrix Dramatics Society, an interesting one. Firstly, it is an adaptation of Saki’s Death Trap, an author who’s not been seen as an inspiration for a Chennai-based play in a very long time. Secondly, the setting of Chakravyuh is inspired by the Calcutta of the 1970s, and thirdly, the cast and crew are made up of working IT employees. 

Directors Anand Kumar and Aritra Dey admit that the time period of their play was a major question. “Should we set it in a pre-Independence period or the modern times?, we asked ourselves. Finally we decided to set it in the ’70s. The script of Chakravyuh is such that with a few minor adjustments it can be fit in anywhere. Hence the play ended up getting a dystopian Indian setting,” says Aritra. 

Plotting for an hour
Death Trap originally follows the story of a prince who is targeted by assassins assigned by a rival prince. Although Chakravyuh follows a similar storyline, various changes needed to be brought into the cast and the content of the plot. “In the original text, Prince Dimitri and Doctor Stronetz are the central characters. To enlarge it into a 60-minute production, we needed more. Some of them were simply mentioned by Saki through dialogues in Death Trap, and Chakravyuh needed them to be present in full blood,” says Aritra. 

The play has characters namely Doctor Shriram, Priyanka, Chirag and Raman Gondola, corporals Ganpati and Kartik, two gossip mongers called Swetha and Chandra, plus three witches. “Praveen, who was seen in Karthick Naren’s 2016 hit debut Tamil movie Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru, will play the role of Captain Shiva, one of the major sub characters,” says Anand. He adds, “The absence of a prominent female character in the original was one of the major challenges, as she needed to be developed from scratch. Priyanka Gondola is one of the four pillars of Chakravyuh right now. Her mannerisms and characteristics needed to be new, but had to fit into the entire context as well. There are also a few characters who come in for comic relief, but are a vital cog in the Chakravyuh machine.”

Retro route
With original music by Vasanth Mohanraj, the play has dialogues inspired by an Indian dialect. As for the costumes, “the main style is ’70s retro,” says Aritra, adding that the play is open to anyone above the age of five. Will we see Chakravyuh in other cities? Anand says that plans are not finalised yet, although they are in talks with theatre groups in Kolkata and Bengaluru. “Hopefully, we will have something on the cards this year. It would be a great experience to perform in those two cities,” adds Anand, while also revealing their intention to produce a musical soon.

At Alliance Française of Madras. January 19. 4.30 pm and 6.30 pm. Tickets available online.