The Lonely Hearts Club Show, an erotica play, premieres on October 1 on Zoom

This virtual play explores topics of voyeurism, erotica and self-love during the pandemic

Ayesha Tabassum Published :  01st October 2021 03:35 PM   |   Published :   |  01st October 2021 03:35 PM
A scene from the rehearsal

A scene from the rehearsal

No touching, hugging or sitting close to each other — these were among the first rules that were spelt out when the pandemic struck. Then the first lockdown was announced in India on the evening of March 24, 2020. All these covid protocols and the abrupt announcement of the lockdown triggered an idea in Anuja Ghosalkar’s mind. The documentary theatre practitioner and artiste was thinking about all those people who were isolated and staying away from their loved ones. With this thought, Anuja started The Lonely Hearts Club, a series of crowd-sourced audio narrations on Instagram on the theme of erotica.

Nearly a year and a half later, the artiste presents a play titled The Lonely Hearts Club Show. This virtual play that will be staged on Zoom, is a compilation of nine personal stories from the series. “I started the Instagram handle where I invited people to send erotic poetry, diary entries, published work, or anything that they had written, in order to counter our loneliness because so many of us were far away from our lovers. It (the audio narrations) ran for 40 nights and received a lot of love. Then, when the lockdown ended, I continued running it once a month. Now we are presenting it as a virtual play,” explains Anuja.

Anuja Ghosalkar

While lots of people contributed to the club, eventually, nine of them participated in a writing workshop facilitated by Anuja and Zui Kumar Reddy. These participants then wrote the play, and will also be performing it. Bala Raghavan, Bhavana Rajendran, Manjima Bhattacharjya, Moakshaa, Nidhi Mariam Jacob, Oishorjyo, Rency Philip, Sophie R, Savu Yalgaar and Tushar Madhav are the nine performers. “We explore the idea of Zoom and voyeurism, and perform the written works. But the onus is also on the audience to ponder their roles as people who are watching. Voyeurism is a larger framework — we are questioning the medium of looking through the camera the entire day,” says Anuja.

One of the performers talks about being stuck in a Covid ward and discovering self-pleasure. She was newly-married and was separated from her husband who was in another ward. Another performer talks about what kind of food turns her and her partner on and her language of love through food. It’s stories such as these that will be explored during this interactive show that allows the audience to participate in discussions as well. Anuja concludes saying, “We are not offending anyone. It’s just a playful show and we want the audience to acknowledge the bravery and vulnerability of the performers.”

Entry free. October 1, 8 pm