The Hairy Ape stagedZarin Rafiuddin
The American playwright Eugene O’ Neill’s ‘The Hairy Ape’ was staged by the 23rd batch students of Prachyanat School of Acting and Design on Sunday at the Experimental Theatre Hall of Shilpakala Academy.
The Nobel Laureate playwright’s drama features how unjustly the working class is treated through the tragedy of a brutish person named Yank.
As the play deals with Ape, resembling the primitives, the play begins with sombre vocals and the workers of the ship gesticulating in a bestial manner, swaying from left to right, with two men overboard monitoring their movements. One of them even uses a whip on the workers who scream like beasts in response in a gloomy ambiance created with dim light.
Subsequently, the play features Yank and others load coal in the engine room of a ship in dim light to articulate the heat generated at the engine room. Yank realises that they, the workers are living, while the gentry above are ghosts, ‘too delicate to actually live.’
Over onboard one of the daughters of the director of the ship wants to see below the decks. Dressed in white she says how she wants to see the plight of people.
Seeing the misery of the labours, the young woman calls Yank a ‘savage ape’ that grows intention of taking revenge of the insult on the ‘Apes’ mind.
When the ship docks into the city Yank goes to seek out the woman but causes trouble thus sent to jail. Using expert pantomime movements the actor displays the Yank’s escape and soon he lands himself in an actual zoo.
Here the production, directed by Baqar Bakul, takes the liberty to illustrate the zoo using the social dimension; the sign above says ‘World Political’ and highlighted are three main cages ‘LDP cage’, ‘Socialist Cage’ and ‘Fundamentalist Cage.’
The production also illustrates the play’s finale: an actor comes on stage and shouts ‘Another World is possible’ and we see the gorilla being affectionate to Yank and give him a cap. It is Che Guevara’s cap and soon a group of dancers dance rhythmically with sticks pumping up the adrenalin and this brings the production to an end.
The popular songs incorporated in the production and the lead actor’s bestial gestures and expressions of rage and anguish were excellently portrayed. The colourful attires of the gentry were well contrasted to the darker and grimier wardrobe of the workers.
Earlier a certificate awarding ceremony was held and certificates were handed over to the actors, who just finished the six-month course.
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