The cast Edgar and Annabel
| Photo credit: special arrangement
A group of friends gather for a night of karaoke — the familiar tunes of ‘Just a small town girl’ fill the air as the friends sing loudly; Just another fun soirée. Their faces tell a different story.
They look worried, almost agitated. Is anyone listening? At the far end of the room, chemical canisters, tangled wires and medical gloves are stocked; a spread that screams danger. Everything seems fine, but apparently it isn’t.
This apparent dichotomy that runs through most of the narrative is what is distinctive Edgar and Annabel.
Written by British playwright Sam Holcroft, the play is a dystopian story about freedom fighters or political dissidents who are under constant surveillance by the Orwellian establishment they are fighting against. Led by Guduguduppukari’s Sunandha Raghunathan, Edgar and Annabel opens in Chennai this weekend. It is presented by Chennai Art Theater and Guduguduppukari.
This writer was a fly on the wall on their first run – tight, with some commendable performances. After the rehearsal, Sunandha sits down with some of the players to discuss the choice of this play.
“It made my heart skip a beat,” says Sunandha. After talks with Nithin Ram, who is essaying the role of Edgar/Nick, they started work in October. “My first impression was that it was going to be an incredibly challenging acting exercise,” says Nithin.
Annabel is played by National Award winner Lakshmipriyaa Chandramouli, who is part of an impressive cast that includes Venkataraghavan Subha Srinivasan, Namita Krishnamurthy, Yashwant Sathu, Dharshan and Sneha.
The first few weeks were spent in the workshops: “I wanted to bring everyone into the world of the game. So everyone knows the tone,” says Sunandha.
The director asked all her actors to associate each of their characters with an animal: this interpretation affects the way they move or react. Nitin’s Nick, for example, is a salmon – swimming upstream and ending up exactly where he started.
Sunandha adds, “It’s a dystopian, domestic play. We went through every line of the play to figure out where the action is.” It’s still hard to say, because it could be set in the near future, the past, or even the present. She continues, “I set it in the now.” She spent two weeks working with the actors. on viewpoints, a compositional tool for dance and device theater that helped her set the stage.
Sunandha Raghunathan | Photo credit: special arrangement
When working with Western content, connectivity is often at stake, especially from a local audience perspective. This was not a concern for the director. “When you’re doing a work for a Western audience, written by a Western playwright, in India with brown bodies, it already feels like an adaptation. We don’t look like Edgar or Annabel or Miller, we don’t sound like them. It’s an interpretation in itself,” says Sunandha, who prefers to keep incongruous details while working on Westerns, almost as an expression of subversion.
Interestingly, a playwright from Belgium is translating the play into Flemish for a performance in Belgium. The text has undergone many revisions and interpretations.
At the end, Sunandha asks, “Do you think this is a revolutionary story wrapped in a love story or a love story wrapped in a revolutionary story?” It’s up to the audience to find out.
Edgar and Annabel will be performed at Medai – The Stage, Alwarpet on December 3rd at 4:00 PM and 7:00 PM. Tickets are available at Book My Show.