It’s Monday night. There’s no other place worth being than at 6 Assagao where compelling, invigorating talks and performances are held in the space of the closed restaurant, Gunpowder. The non-profit organisation that Nilankur Das has seeded, birthed and developed over the course of a year and a bit provides a space for activism talks not just of the goings on in India but from around the world. It’s a space where artists from the various fields of writing, painting and music can showcase their works. Where travellers who have set out on a journey of unconventional ways can share of their experiences.
Home-cooked Indian food is served alongside local drinks and the growing community arrives for a night of educational insight and values. Sometimes just a handful show up, sometimes there’s not enough space for everyone as was the case on Monday, the 4th of November.
A nameless collective had come together to present a 3-hour performance of what might be regarded as ‘experimental theatre’. Although, if you really dig deep, every piece of theatre is experimental. This group of 7 individuals had come together to project and inject something into the attendees psyche.
Bhisaji is all about movement and using his body to convey what his going through on the inside. As he entered the stage area fully clothed in white, he used a ladder, candles and his own body to press what his heart was beating to. As the evening gathered pace he stripped to black tights, going topless and finally, ending up in black briefs. Interacting with the crowd by holding a candle between him and the person whose soul he dove into. And he dived into each of the people that came within the first hour, at least 20 or so soul-dives were conducted, some lasting seconds, some lasting minutes.
All the while, Impana, a dancer and movement performer, expressed her emotions through traditional dance, movement and speech. Talking to the crowd, to herself, sitting by an audience member and just having a conversation with him while playing with string. For me, the peak sizzle of the evening came when she and Bhisaji began to mirror each other’s movements. It’s hard to take your eyes off people who mirror each other.
In the background, Dhiraj cuddled and wrapped himself in a 10-metre white cloth, contrasting it with his black outfit. He remained wrapped, hidden and still for most of the 3-hours. This isn’t lazy performing. It conveys a powerful message. That silence is power, like the silent protestors in Turkey or a Vipassana course. With silence we gain insight, our vision clears and we see things for what they really are without the distraction of noise.
Behind the scenes, although not hidden as they provide an on-stage presence that adds to the power of the piece, Supriya and Rohit controlled the live projection of visual mappings played on pieces of hung cloth or on the actors bodies as they performed. The visuals seemed to represent confusion and calm at the same time. Supriya also physically played with Impana and Bhisaji, wrapping herself in the cloth with Dhiraj.
Conducting the soundscape were two young men, Divesh and Akshay. Both talented musicians in their own right they played with electronica and ancient instruments such as the digeridoo and mouth harp, drums, bells, horns and sea shells, all brought together harmoniously to create sounds that in itself, took you on a frequency journey. At a later stage of the performance, Divesh began to draw on the easel standing by him.
The entire set was without lights bar the lights of candles lit during the performance by the players. The overhead rainbow canopy as though representing the colours of the human emotions. And even when the power went out, as it tends to do in Goa and indeed, the whole of Asia, without skipping a beat, the players synched up and used the cut power to their advantage until it returned. It was sewn together so perfectly you’d think it was all part of the act.
When I spoke to the performers I was astonished to learn that they had only gotten together just a few weeks prior, with just a handful of rehearsals, just flowing with what comes. As Akshay had put it, “We challenge ourselves creatively.”
And what they conveyed indeed seemed challenging yet it was presented seamlessly. The kind of performance that no two opinions could ever be the same. Everyone who attended had a different experience in the semi-circle stage they surrounded. A slightly different degree in the point-of-view from sitting on the floor almost as part of the stage, sitting around on the benches or standing behind the seats. Each perspective did its purpose of doing just that; a different perspective on a 3-hour performance that will never be the same when they do it again.
To find out more about Monday Nights at 6 Assagao and Thus. check out the following link:
There’s always something new to learn on Monday nights in Goa.