Breaking taboos through four short plays

Ahead of Valentine’s Day, Chennai Art Theatre presents four short stories that open a discussion on love, relationships and complexes

Art is a reflection of society, they say. But not all art gets a display. Striving to overcome one such barrier, and bridge the gap between art and life, Chennai Art Theatre is endeavouring to break taboos around how we perceive love, desire and pleasure, through a series of short plays. Titled Erotica, the theatre presentation will see four plays — The Things You Do For Love, It’s All Good, Madonna, and Aval Naan Udal — seeking to open a discussion around the basic but taboo subjects surrounding relationships and the body.

The show is curated by B Charles, who is a threatre lighting designer by profession. “In my opinion, people have a misconception about erotica, and hence, are quick to tag it as taboo. Erotica is nothing but works of art describing basic but strong human emotions. And through our show, we only intend to have a discussion on the subject with theatre as the medium. Again honestly, we are only touching the surface level of this deep and intriguing topic that deserves a lot more opening up to and awareness,” he says.
“We are the same city that banned Vagina Monologues, so I do understand that erotica is not something a majority of the people are comfortable talking about, but like I said, we aren’t showing anything that can ruin a culture! We are only presenting stories that are real to life.”

It’s All Good, written and directed by Vinithra Menon and Shalini V, is about two men who meet to discuss the current state of their relationships and what they feel about love and life. As the play progresses, the audience will be bound to question if the two men are really saying what is on their minds, or are they conditioned to view connections through a gendered lens.


Decoding the ‘Madonna complex’, identified by Sigmund Freud, and giving it an interesting twist at the climax of the play, Madonna, which is written by Shruti Parasuraman and directed by Namritha Kalai tells the story of Uday, a happily married man. He is affectionate towards his wife Tina, and that’s the only thing that defines their relationship. When he meets Mo, he is unable to get her off his mind; while Tina tries her best to woo him back. What follows is a metaphorical drama into Uday’s feelings as he comes to terms with himself. Explaining why she chose such a subject to tell a story, Namritha, who is also acting in it, says, “I have had conversations with men who do want to talk about dealing with the Madonna complex, but feel that there is no scope or space to do it. So, with them, their immediate partner, most often their wife is pictured as a divine being, while outside their relationship, with others, they do not view the person in a similar light. Freud explains this complex in one line: ‘Where such men love, they cannot   desire; where they desire, they cannot love.’ 

<em>The Things You Do For Love</em>
The Things You Do For Love

The third play in the series is The Things You Do For Love, directed by Rayyan Thenmaalaikhan. Its protagonists, Nyugen and Jim are very excited to meet Jim’s new date, Marge on Halloween. Interestingly, between the three of them, one has undergone a sex change; one of them was someone else’s ex, and one of them has another issue to deal with with. What happens next?

<em>Aval Naan Udal</em>
Aval Naan Udal

Aval Naan Udal, that translates to ‘her me and body’, directed by Thiravia Sankar, on the other hand, presents contemporary body movement theatre. “The play is about a man, who is lonely, and is searching for his wife. While we tend to remember people through their memories we hold, the twist here is that this man tries to search for his wife by exploring other bodies, but is not able to. The piece is a monologue by me and I have four characters, enacting the role of three women and a man that the protagonist (I) meet in my search for my wife,” says Vijay Babu, who conceptualised the play and  was also the winner of Short+Sweet Theatre Festival last year.

After premiering in Chennai, the show is going to travel to Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Madurai and Puducherry. While in its fifth edition, Erotica has had its share of backlash, Charles responds, “We are only discussing what needs to be discussed, and despite all hiccups, the show must go on.”

Rs 300. February 11. 4 pm 
and 7 pm. Medai - The Stage, Alwarpet.


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