As I made my way into the circle of seats in Rangashankara, I caught myself saying that it’s ok if the play sucks, at least I would be watching one. Maybe because of that, I am still not able to say very much about the play. Pira Peri Pora is based on Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. From whatever little I managed to skimp through about Titus Andronicus, I could gather that it was a story about revenge, evil and goodness. And that it was criticised even in Shakespeare’s own time for its violent content.
I quite enjoyed the location the play began with. It appeared to be some sort of a prison kitchen, like in V for Vendetta. Orders were given by a woman over loudspeakers and were accompanied by a set of blinding yellow spot lights. I liked the infrequent chopping of the vegetables that the characters were scarily reminded to get back to. They chopped cabbages, tomatoes, and potatoes and put them away in what seemed to be a lab glass bowl with an artificial red liquid inside it with baby parts floating; arms, legs, butts.
A recipe book appears randomly in much the same way a wailing baby appears minutes later. This was the only absurdity the play was able to offer. In that, only the appearances of these things seemed random, while the events unfurling around these things itself managed to send the audience into quiet the hissing spree. Point in case, when the three of them start throwing the baby around and one manages to snap out the baby’s arm.
The play seemed more effective when the characters used the stage and did things with it, unlike during their monologues which were dry and long. A housefly buzzes past them now and then and they wonder if they must squash it to death and now they do; now they don’t. I liked how the lights were dangerously red and yellow at times and a mellow white at most others. A heap of onions along with other vegetables popped out of two gunny bags. At no point during the play was I intrigued to find out what in the world they were trying to cook. They chopped anything they found at the working station and in went the cabbages, onions, potatoes, chillies. No rotis or rice was to be found anywhere on the stage. I don’t know why but that bothered me more than what they did to the baby.
The dystopic prison setting enables the macabre narration that the characters bring to an otherwise dull climax. Some of the techniques they used stayed with me longer than the story itself. The falling- into- the- black hole bit was rather charming. Even as the list of unanswered questions kept piling, why are they imprisoned? Who imprisoned them? Why isn’t there a sense of exterior place or time, it didn’t take much time getting used to repetitive patterns in their behavior.
Once or twice, I recall siding with the captors themselves. The three of them kept forgetting where they were. The rude lady over the loudspeakers had to keep threatening them to get back to work. The only thing that didn’t make sense was neither of them seemed to actually fear consequences. As if being locked up in a prison kitchen was the only worst thing that could happen.