• Saturday, December 20, 2014

Freedom in the air

Intricacies of intimacy

“Dog, Woman, Man” at Goethe-Institut

Fahmim Ferdous
The cast is the biggest strength of the play. Photo: Ridwan Adid Rupon
The cast is the biggest strength of the play. Photo: Ridwan Adid Rupon

While theatre in Bangladesh has seen its evolution over the decades, and has a distinctive identity of its own today, the concept of theatrical performances in the West – that have hundreds of years of history, is taking newer shapes every day. Although theatre enthusiasts are familiar to classics from European master playwrights, contemporary European work is still very new. That is the first point of interest about “Man, Woman, Dog”, Reetu Sattar's ensemble production based on Yael Hedaya's “Liebe pur”. The next intriguing matters are the language (English) and the show-time of the production. It premiered at the Goethe-Insitut on May 20 and the runs till today on the first slot, and after a two-day break, resumes for five more successive shows from Tuesday.
“Dog, Woman, Man” is a story of three characters, and the changing dynamics of their relationships. Without giving too many spoilers -- man and woman meet, there's attraction, it develops, and layers of it are uncovered one by one. From burning passion to trust, grief, denial, dependence, jealousy, rage, despair, and in the end submission – a dramatised, ornate reflection of every dysfunctionality of romantic relationships (particularly in a European setting) is brought out, with the dog playing a foil character to accentuate the other two, and as an occasional third-person narrator.
Contemporary German theatre, in its perception, style and way of story-telling, does not fail to fascinate. The minimalistic stage arrangement with use of transparent drapes and ropes to various effects, the perception-altering elements (like pillows hung on the wall, depicting 'vertical' beds) and the use of stage (in fact, the entire auditorium) is refreshing; the pre-arranged visuals to enhance the story-telling (like 'as-live' facebook posts appearing on projected screens, pre-recorded sub-textual monologue, and use of video footage and ambient audio) are all signature elements of German contemporary theatre (as I saw a while back in German performer Felix Ott's “Odyssey Complex”) and work very well in this one too. The background music, arranged by Rahul Anand, is also impeccable, as is the light, set, props, and choreography.
But the production really stands on the shoulders of the characters. Shahadat Hossain (from Centre for Asian Theatre) and Dr. Samina Luthfa (from BotTala) are two of the most silently brilliant actors of their time, and are supported very well by Shahriar Ferdous Sazeeb (Prachyanat), who plays the dog. The leading duo's chemistry, timing and body language are absolutely bang on; from the intensity to the subtlety, they handle both with equal dexterity. Sazeeb's act is more challenging than it appears, and he too does very well. The only thing that sort of pulls the production back is the language: since none of the performers are accustomed to delivering dialogues in English, the intonations are occasionally off and the meaning gets lost in a few places.
All in all, “Dog, Woman, Man” is ambitious, refreshing and largely successful. Prachyanat veteran Reetu Sattar's attempt to push the perception of theatrical performance to the aficionados of the arts-form is a commendable effort. Two thumbs up.

Published: 12:00 am Saturday, May 24, 2014

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