As city’s theatre scene gets back on its feet, Chennai Art Theatre offers its first play of the year

Titled What Happened, the play written by US-based author David Hansen, is an exploration of grief and loss as shared by a couple who lost their firstborn. 
From What Happened
From What Happened

After a one year hiatus, it is curtains up for live theatre in Chennai. A year after their last production (Erotica ­— a compilation of four short stories that explored seduction and sensuality), Chennai Art Theatre (CAT) is back with their first play of the year. Titled What Happened, the play written by US-based author David Hansen, is an exploration of grief and loss as shared by a couple who lost their firstborn. 

“Since theatre and performances came to a standstill during the lockdown, it felt like a huge void in our lives. And it was extremely difficult for full-time theatre artistes. Now that theatre is back, we are excited to get back on stage and we hope people will support us through this,” says B Charles of CAT who is producing the play.

Talking about the play, the popular lighting director adds, “What Happened is an autobiographical story by David Hansen and we acquired the copyrights from him to adapt the story here. The story takes you through the journey of a father from the moment his son was born and through the year that follows. It’s an honest, horrible, and even humorous trip through a father’s experience with stillbirth.”

Directed by veteran thespian Denver Anthony Nicholas, the 65-minute-long show that follows a monologue format, will see theatre personalities TM Karthik and Mrittika Chatterjee performing. Set inside a house, the play will rely on innovative lighting techniques using various colours to reflect the mood of the scene. Charles shares, “While the actors remain the primary factors, we will also be using set design elements such as different coloured lights to convey different emotions.”

We ask the director what he aims to convey through the play and Denver shares, “I’m not trying to convey anything, that’s not how I approach plays. When I came across the story early last year, the script spoke to me. It is a journey of a father who’s dealing with the loss of his child. It shows his emotional growth, acceptance and also his fight to keep holding on. It’s emotional, yet very beautiful.” Speaking of his process, he adds, “We were lucky to be in touch with David while developing the play. Although he didn’t want to influence us with his ideas, he would answer our questions about how he felt, and what his thought process was while he was writing this.”

But is it a difficult watch? we inquire, and Denver adds, “As much as it will emotionally connect with the audience, I wouldn’t say it is traumatic. The story is very real but we aren’t trying to make it a tearjerker. But still we put an 18+ advisory on our posters because we realise, after going through a pandemic, anything can be a trigger for anyone. That was something we did out of caution.”  

The performance will be held with all COVID-19 regulations in place including mandatory masks, sanitisation and the venue functioning at 50 per cent capacity. As part of World Theatre Day (March 27) celebrations, CAT has several other plays planned for later this month.

Entry at `300, 4 pm and 7 pm at Alliance Française of Madras. |  @fathiimaashraf

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