The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

When you see a performance, it should look like a painting
— Deepan Sivraman, The Director.

In the true modernist sense, Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards 2016 started with a bang and not with a whimper.

On the 5th of March, a Saturday evening, the corridors of Ambedkar University were buzzing with an intellectual gossip whose center of origin was Deepan Sivramans play The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. The excitement in peoples voice was commendable and the two words about the play which marked their presence throughout the previous evening were intriguing and interesting.

In the cold breeze of early spring, the floor (instead of stage) was being set in a warehouse setting because unlike the proscenium plays here the space was a major character in the play. All the objects along with the actors seemed to be props of psyche which merged so well with the setting that it was hard to make a distinction between the living and the dead.

From multiple -isms of the early 20th century, Deepan chose ‘Expressionism’ to portray the eternal inner life of human mind. While opening the different twist and turns of psyche, the darkness and the horror brought on stage through make up and props did justice to the directors view.

According to Kaustubh Naik (Sound Designer), the plays content comes from a 1920 film with the same title. The group only had the subtitles of the movie as a script. They developed and organized the subtitles track in such a way that it took the form of a post-dramatic play. This was a technique used in 1970s to answer the shortcomings of proscenium theaters.

The aspect of the play which delighted the audience was the mode of the play i.e. ephemeral and sublime. Tarika — a theatre enthusiast commented aptly, The audio, the video and Francis(a character) merged so effectively that it was impossible to make a distinction, and the rain which started on time and ended with the climax of the play just added to the essence of the play [the horror, the horror].

With a simple story-line which came alive due to the scenography (how the play will look) the play asked time and again a question i.e. is there reality without a subject? What is the concrete proof of reality, me, you or our consciousness?

The love triangle in the play along with Caligaris witchcraft tried to dig the foundations of our everyday reality. It brought out the need of the survival instinct in this bad, mad and dangerous world of ours (which could be, just a phenomenon). According to Wenci (Video Designer), the group has tried to decimate the binary of body and technology. He implied that both of them evolve together and there is no place to draw a line.

Through a mlange of videography, stage props, lightning and dramaturgy, we were promised an experience of lifetime and that is what exactly the play delivered.

— Abhishek Tiwari

Watch the META plays from 6th-10th March! Click here to book tickets.

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