This certainly isn't the best play I have ever watched; actually it won't even make it into the top five. But by golly, did it make me think long and hard!
I'd go as far as comparing it with popular AR Rahman music in the sense that even in the short, unbroken span of 90 odd minutes, the characters in the play grow on you and take you further and further into their worlds till you start rooting for or against them. What seems like a ubiquitous story of mistreatment of women under archaic laws in a society still thriving in a Dark Age of its own making draws you in and reveals hitherto unknown layers of how exactly the spirit is shattered much before the body is condemned to dust in such stories.
That Mexican proverb about burial and seeds! (Courtesy: whatshappbangalore.files.wordpress.com/)
The central character, a precocious girl who is the apple of her family's eye, turns slowly but surely into a mere shadow of herself as the play progresses and the Universe leaves no stone unturned to multiply her misery. But she literally does rage against the dying of the light. The circumstances that were finally able to contain her youthfulness laced liberally with naivete may still exist but her role as the beacon towards a better tomorrow for women has been immortalized. Her belief in the absolute power of truth does leave you irritated at times but you soon realize that the shortcoming isn't hers at all, it is actually the world she lived in which is to blame for what she endures. By chronicling her experiences, the service she has done for the cause of women across the world is perhaps immeasurable. Therefore, the folks who came up with the play also deserve a lot of heartfelt appreciation for taking up something that is truly meaningful, more so in the trying times we live in. Also, one would tend to think that if the central character could have been with us today, she would've preferred that the other victims in the same group aren't reduced to mere statistics and the play incorporates her preference in the truest sense.
The real hero in the play though is the direction masterclass. The usage of many an iconoclastic technique results in a chaotic stage and hence, an uneasy experience for the viewer. But once you have invested enough time in the dynamics of the play, you seem to enjoy the rhythm. If I were to exaggerate it, it seems like you have finally found some sort of a pattern in the numbers succeeding the decimal point in the value of pi. But as in the case of that piece of mathematical brilliance, this one keeps you hooked till the end.
Sample one of these pieces of directional ingenuity -- the central character is actually played by 6-7 different actors! While each one of them remains largely true to the spirit of the character, their own customary styles and mannerisms do stand out without interfering with the play's ethos. It makes you wonder if the director could actually figure out which actor would suit which part of the play or it is a matter of square pegs finding the perfect square holes. You may ask if this sort of arrangement doesn't allow the actors to dive into a single role or to connect to the protagonist all that much but to the credit of the director, the fact that it raises such an important question itself is an indicator of a high degree of success. To bring a sports analogy into the scheme of things, would you say that none of the Total Football Dutch team was a good midfielder or would you say that each one of them was?
One aspect of the play I enjoyed a great deal was the usage of lighting to capture the mood of each part of the play. And to this end, some of the lighting is actually handled by the actors themselves as they play out their characters. The dynamism this results in added to the unconventional directions from which sound reaches you gives you a riveting experience as a viewer. The minimal usage of props or stage arrangement material perhaps puts a lot of pressure on the actors to make the audience understand what the setting is but the actors rise to the challenge with a lot of panache.
Another area in which the play does extremely well is the depiction of how the world of a person who had oodles of nonchalance yesterday is transformed into a ball of soul crushing anxiety and fear. By doing so, it quashes the general idea about how your personal world turns upside down in the face of such a depressing life narrative. The descent into paranoia isn't a regulated one or one which happens overnight; it takes years for the reservoir to get exhausted as the elusive search for meaning continues unabated.
The play could do with some heavy duty editing and tightening so that the exploration of the psyche of the central character gets more attention. But apart from this, there's really nothing else to pick on. The abruptness of the flow from one scene to another will only get lessened from here on as the chemistry between the actors goes up.
The one theme that binds the play together is a chillingly beautiful Persian song. But for it, the play would have been many times poorer.
In conclusion, do go watch this play not only because you support women empowerment in principle as well as in action but also because the courage of the central character is completely worth knowing about and getting inspired by.