I saw a play “Equus” in Prithvi Theatre. I will not summarize the play. Since this is my fifth English play which I saw, I have something to say on English Plays staged by Indian actors for Indian audience.
Accent is important
Three of the five plays which I saw, it seemed to me, that the actors were recruited from Call Centres. They spoke English in foreign accent and many words were left unclear to me. I could also sense the audience disconnect. I am sure; a foreigner will feel the same.
When the accent is artificial to the tongue it fails to create the emotions which the play desires. I strongly believe, the Indian actors should speak English without assuming an accent. If the words come out naturally, the audience will reciprocate.
This does not imply that the actors can speak English laden with Indian regional tones, like South Indian or Bengali etc. There is a proper English tone for an Indian. The problem happens when actors assume a British or an American tone.
Some key Words and Sentences needs to be stressed
I have observed, actors can’t help skidding over words. In a play, words are important. It creates the environment and walks the audience through the plot. Words which are missed will make a paragraph meaningless and subsequently affect the scene. The audience will have to fall back on guess-work.
The problem of understanding becomes more acute when there is music in the background. The actor rambles on, his voice audible only in between the cusp of the music. Finally the music stops and he stops, with no audience the wiser. The idea behind words and music was to create an atmosphere and draw the audience up to the oncoming scene. Sadly, the audience feel deprived.
Some Plays needs guidance
Some plays need a “Sutra Dhār” or a compare, to show up on stage from time to time and guide the audience. This is most required when the context of the play is complicated or alien to the audience.
People see plays for entertainment and few do any homework prior to the show. There are pamphlets available to be picked up, glanced at and then abandoned. The audience will act only in two dimensions. They will come to the theatre and buy the ticket. The onus is on the side of the creator to involve the audience or make it three dimensional, so to say.
Somebody had rightly said on “Audiences” – First you tell them what you are going to tell them, then you tell them, then you tell them what you told them.
Learn from Other Plays
If the actor loves his craft, he should see plays of his peers. Even movies are good places to learn on basics of stage craft. As an audience myself, I am no expert. But I can distinguish between good and bad plays and know where to put the money. Nevertheless, just like any workplaces, the bad exists with the good.
I have seen three plays directed by Naseeruddin Shah, one of them English – The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial. After seeing this play, I could understand why Naseeruddin Shah’s name is synonymous with authenticity and credibility. All actors spoke in natural English, had good voice throw and the drama was captivating.
The other English Play which I saw is – The Disappearing Number. It is fabulous. If you haven’t tried out any plays and if you want to try one – Go for this. It’s an audio-visual delight.