In 2013, Amba-Suhasini Jhala was shaking a king by the shoulders on the lawns of Zorba The Buddha. It was a brisk spring evening, and as we watched her as Paulina in a production of The Winter’s Tale (“Let him that makes but trifles of his eyes / First hand me!”) we could sense the gentle corresponding tremble in the hearts of the audience.
Now, hand-in-hand with two other actor-directors, Anirudh Nair - the co-director and Florizel of that production - and Pranay Manchanda, Amba is readying the first production of a new theatre company with perhaps the most evocative name in recent Delhi memory. Sound horns of welcome for Guild Of The Goat, whose ‘Futureproof’ debuts early next month for a brief run at Oddbird Theatre.
“‘Guild’ has a long history in theatre,” she says, explaining the name. “And the goat is, of course at the root of the word tragedy”-which means goat-song in classical Greek, named for the prize goat giveaway in Athenian acting competitions.
Instead of beasts, the Guild's new work features freaks.
Contain your disappointment if you expect live animals to feature in Guild Of The Goat productions: they’re not that kind of company. But you've probably already seen their individual work around the city over the last couple of years. Amba’s Toss A Coin production house staged Oliver Lansley’s disquieting ‘The Infant,’; Pranay was part of an improv theatre group (you may also know him from ‘Baked’); Anirudh’s Wide Aisle Productions offered up dreamy-but-pulsating Shakespeare, and was last seen collaborating with a Chicago theatre company to produce an acclaimed adaptation of 'The Cure' in that city.
Instead of beasts, the Guild's new work features freaks, in a manner of speaking. A smash-hit British play by Lynda Radley, ‘Futureproof’ is the story of an “odditorium”: a travelling circus that includes the world’s self-declared fattest man, Siamese twins, an armless bearded lady and so on, falling on hard times, battered by an audience's changing tastes and new mores.
We love this Vonnegut-esque description and are promised “very minimal” design, actors flowing through roles and uses on stage and “many, many moving parts” to the spectacle. “What’s it about?” Amba writes. “Gender identity, fitting in, conventions of beauty and dignity, choices, ways of seeing, looking at what it means to be 'normal', social mores, but mostly it's about selfhood.”
Now don’t wait to be pursued by a bear.
Image credit: Sukanya Devika Jhala.
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