“Prison”: Earnest thespian work
The time for writing never expires even if the delay is inordinate. One is drawn to write about one's favourites or likings with the maxim in mind 'better late than never'. I saw a play at the experimental theatre auditorium of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, Dhaka on December 7, of the by-gone year and I thought of writing about my experience of watching an accomplished production.
The play was titled “Prison” which was produced by National Sami Theatre. The production had a Greek playwright, a Bangladeshi director and a Finnish actor. This was a mono-performance. The playwright, director, actor and the designers of the production are well-established in their own fields of art. The director Kamaluddin Nilu is our own man, who has by now, been showered with well-deserved national and international fame. He is the founder secretary general of Centre for Asian Theatre (CAT), and is presently affiliated with the Centre of Ibsen Studies, University of Oslo and also a board member of the International Ibsen Committee. He has been an outstanding teacher (Associate Professor) of Dramatic Arts Department, Chittagong University. Last but not the least, he is a thinker-researcher and a competent theatre director at large.
Lia Karavia is a Greek poet, novelist, essayist and linguist. She has published more than 50 books and won several literary awards. She is a playwright of merit who has earned both national and international recognition. The play “Prison” depicts with inner depth as to how misguided politics and anti-people intent of the ruling class lead to an individual as well as collective tragedy. In the play, the playwright has aptly depicted the frustration, solitude, dreams, aspirations, and above all, the unfathomable desire to live against all odds, and torments of a woman incarcerated in an isolated cell. While I was watching the performance -- depicting this isolated world of an individual, in my mind the prison cell turned out to be my world; not only that, the cell was extended as the living place of millions of the downtrodden. Here lies the success of the play.
Anitta Suikkari, the lone actor of the mono-play, was at her best in expressing her emotions and external manifestations of human existence. She became a universal being on stage within the confine of a prison cell. Suikkari, besides being an actor of fame, had proven her worth as a theatre director and teacher in Norway and Sweden. In Sami theatre and film productions, she acted in Shakespeare's “Macbeth” and “Hamlet”.
The play was in Sami language with the projection of English translations having desired clarity. So, the play's lone character Nina's world in the confines of a solitary cell was well expressed without any ambiguity. The set and light, as well as sound and music, were superb and the credit goes to the set designer Bent Morten Bongo, light designer Kamaluddin Nilu and sound designer Srein Egil Oskal. The prison cell with its conic-rectangular shape without any door and window, created a claustrophobic and gagging atmosphere -- apt for a prisoner in isolation. The intermittent flashes of external projection of sunrays accentuated the frightful abode of the prisoner. Nina's vocal acting, especially the physical portrayal of her mental state, will be remembered by the audience for a long time to come. Imprisoned Nina's defiant utterances inside the ruthless cell -- “You can keep me here forever, but my mind works, it travels, it flies,” will keep on inspiring the tortured, frustrated, helpless and hopeless humanity again and over again.
After having seen the play “Prison”, when I came out of the auditorium, I kept on pondering about the happenings on stage which kept me shrouded for quite some time. It made me think and led me to the conclusion that only earnest and self-possessed work by the playwright, director, actor and designers can produce such an aesthetically deep wok of theatre art. Kudos to all who share in the success of the production.