Preview: Dramact's second online production, Reasonable Doubt is a gripping jury drama
A creative mind likes to work around a good challenge. Even with the lockdown and its restrictions, artistes everywhere are finding a way around it all, in order to continue creating. As Chennai-based performance company Dramact is back with their second online offering during the lockdown, thespian Nilakantan N (Nilu) says, “It’s our obsession, the passion for theatre that is making us do this. We need to keep doing something. If not that, this. An online format might not give us much space to perform but it's a completely different kind of exploration that we are doing in this medium. ”
Titled Reasonable Doubt, the 90-minute-long jury drama that will be streamed live on YouTube will feature 12 actors (from Bangalore, Hyderabad, Coonoor, Tuticorin, Hong Kong and Chennai) who will be performing from their homes over a Zoom session.
“We have been doing online rehearsals with everyone during the last month. We look into the aspects within the parameters of what Zoom allows us. It’s very difficult for the actors, especially because they don’t have anyone that they are looking at. They all have to act as if there are other people in the room looking in the direction of where that person is supposed to be sitting and working accordingly. There are also a lot of movement restrictions because you can't go out of the frame. The actors are all used to being on stage, having the ability to feed off each other's energy. Now they have to get that energy through Zoom. It's quite challenging, also for me to keep a tab on 12 different screens,” says Nilu, whose previous production, The Odd Couple was also screened on YouTube earlier in July.
The play that is based on an older staged production, deals with the events that go on in a jury room — the deliberations during a case trial, how people fight with each other, question and answer each other's concerns until they get to a unanimous verdict.
When asked about how theatrical elements such as lighting and set design will have to be compromised in an online production, Nilu shares, “There is still a need for all that. We have created a set virtually where each person will have a section of the background. Almost similar backdrops have been created for everyone and all of them will be using a certain kind of lights to light themselves up. The difference here is that each person will be doing it themselves and taking care of their own props.”
“As a director, the aspects that I need to be watching here are completely different. I need to look at the actors’ point of view, the eye line, where the other person needs to be sitting, what direction they need to be looking at while addressing each other - all those things are not something you need to be worrying when it’s done on stage,” he adds.
Talking further about this format of YouTube premiere and how it would help revive theatre, Nilu shares, “In a way, this is an experiment as in, this is the first time we are charging for tickets and it seems to be doing reasonably well. If it works, it will be really good for the theatre people. What encouraged me so much was our previous production which was screened simultaneously on Facebook and YouTube got us over 2,000 views collectively. So there is a hope that we will get a reach in that range for this as well.”
All the challenges aside, does this new format have a positive side to it? “To be honest, this is bridging the gap between stage and cinema. As stage people, we have been looking at different aspects of performance before — not worrying about which direction you are looking at, what the lighting on your face needs to be, the intensity of the expressions on your face because when on the camera it’s different. On stage, your expressions are supported by your body language. So we are learning to do all that and thus, it's bridging the gap a great deal. And I feel a lot of people can now take on television and movie careers because now they understand the workings of it,” shares Nilu.
We ask how they plan to address technical glitches if at all one were to arise, and Nilu adds. “It is a possibility but we have contingencies for that. By mistake, if something goes off, someone else will take a line. Just like how you improvise on stage. Very many times during a play, somebody forgets a line or someone forgets to enter and you'll find a way around it. Even yesterday, during the rehearsals, one of the jurors who was supposed to say ‘guilty’ said ‘not guilty’ instead and immediately went back to ‘guilty’ — and one of the actors stepped in and said, ‘Make up your mind’ (laughs). So these things happen and as actors, they are used to it. It's just another medium, but the basics remain the same.”
Tickets at `150 onwards. Register online.
On October 3, 7 pm on YouTube