Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Disappearing Number - An experience

It was an experience that I didn't think existed.

I have been kind of a regular at going for 'Plays' at Prithivi and NCPA, and have always liked the intensity and passion of performance in them. I thought of it as an art done by artists seriously interested in that art, unlike Bollywood that seems to be more about capturing mass appeal, lesser risks and making profits.

But yesterday was different. It was surreal. I had gone to watch 'A Disappearing Number' at NCPA and it managed to break all my pre-conceived notions about a play, its beauty, its art and its limitations. The only thing expected was great acting, everything else was un-expectedly awe inspiring and beautifully creative.

The play, conceived and directed by Simon McBarney of Complicite Company tells the story of the intense relationship between the mathematicians G. H. Hardy and Srinivasan Ramanujan, a 23-year-old Indian genius with no university education. The play also had a parallel love story of a lecturer at a British university, Ruth, with an American hedge fund manager from Los Angeles, Al Cooper. Ruth is shown to be an ardent fan of Ramanujan and Al becomes enchanted by one of her lectures that he randomly attends about the notion of 'an infinity of infinities'.

While the story of Ramanujan is performed in linear time, the story of Ruth and Al travels back and forth in time bringing in relevance and context to the presentation. While the story was good and touched me for it being about an amazing Indian, what caught my admiration was the production values and on-stage ideas that were executed to communicate with the viewers about intricate mathematical concepts.

The play seemed like a jadoo (magic) because of the extremely creative and coordinated use of video footage, recorded audio, and an exceptionally designed stage setting, which could become a Cambridge classroom and a Caurvery riverside within seconds. To me, it has re-defined the creative possibilities in a stage by the use of great acting, backstage coordination, use of props and the use of new media technology.

The play effectively manages to convey the unity and infinity of the universe with continuous and congruous use of actors, shadows of actors, audio/visual aids, props like the over-head projectors and the ever transforming stage.

Let me try to bring into life one of the scenes that tries to represent the concept of continuity, infinity and that there is no gap between two whole numbers, say 1 and 2, because we have the infinite series of 1.1, 1.11, 1.111 etc between 1 and 2. Essentially the scene was representing that the whole world is continuous.

{I decided to delete this paragraph, as my explanation may not do justice to the spectacle that the team at Complicite Company produced on stage. Instead thought of inserting an image.}

Amazing Creativity. Amazing Teamwork. Amazing Screenplay. A must watch for anybody especially if you get emotional about art and creativity. I almost cried with happiness, exhilaration and sadness.


Read more about the 'A Disappearing Number'
Read more about Simon McBurney - my idol now. I have to know and see more of him.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:40 PM

    Impressive description of an experience of watching a play. Makes me want to see the play. I say, Simon McBurney should pay you for this blog. Cheers!


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