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French gravity-defying troupe to wow city

Space, perhaps the most contentious resource in Mumbai, will be the focal point of an experimental theatrical performance called Plan B being staged in the city by a Toulouse-based troupe, Compagnie 111, reports Purva Mehra.

mumbai Updated: Dec 09, 2009 02:28 IST
Purva Mehra

Space, perhaps the most contentious resource in Mumbai, will be the focal point of an experimental theatrical performance called Plan B being staged in the city by a Toulouse-based troupe, Compagnie 111.

On a sparse stage at the NCPA, technicians belonging to ‘One One One’ appear preoccupied with a large, impassive surface perched at a steep incline.

At best the prop (a plane) perplexes and the remainder of the stage is left expectantly vacant.

Within two hours of the box office opening on Tuesday, the eve of their performance, Compagnie 111’s premiering shows were sold out.

The physical-theatre company’s affinity to challenge Newtonian Laws of gravity has become, since their inception in 2000, their most frequent reputation.

“For me theatre is the art of space, which is governed by physical and mathematical rules. To explore that space I involve acrobats and jugglers who struggle with gravity and we arrive at another perception of space,” said Aurelien Bory, the troupe’s artistic director.

Words find little room in their spectacles, but the troupe relies heavily on sound and light to facilitate their spatial riddles. Bory has also invented the concept of sonic juggling, defined by an international daily as ‘stomp with balls’.

“Imagine a layered cake. So there is the set, the actors, the lights and sound, but there’s no hierarchy, they are all equals,” said Phil Soltanoff, director, Plan B.

Plan B is the second installment in a trilogy on space, but those seeking a story will find none.

There is however logic dictating all the illusionary tricks and vertiginous feats, “just as in a Beethoven symphony”, explained Bory, a student of maths, physics and architectural acoustics.

The show was conceived in 2002 and refers to quite literally a Plan B in case jugglers accidentally drop balls or if one of their other stupendous manipulations doesn’t go quite as planned.

“Even though we’ve been performing it for eight years it’s always challenging to present it to a new audience. It’s horrible and wonderful doing something repeatedly, but if you can still bring it alive each time, it makes it worth it,” said Soltanoff, founder of New York’s experimental theatre company Mad Dog.

(The performance is part of the Bonjour India Festival and will be staged at the Jamshed Bhabha Auditorium, NCPA, on December 9 and 10 at 7 pm)