Ershad Kamol writes on Prison, a monodrama written by a Greek author, translated in Sami,
performed by a Norwegian group and directed by a Bangladeshi. photo by Snigdha Zaman
The universality of freedom
Ershad Kamol writes on Prison, a monodrama written by a Greek author, translated in Sami, performed by a Norwegian group and directed by a Bangladeshi
photo by Snigdha Zaman
As soon as the performance started, the acting prowess of the seasoned actor Anitta Suikkari, in the role of Nina, created the illusion in the viewers’ minds of them being in a prison, which symbolically stood as a barrier to the freedom of thought of many minorities across the world, in the monodrama titled ‘Prison’.
Suikkari started her heart-wrenching narration walking down memory lane, in the dramatic monologue form, on the performance stage, three sides of which were blocked with white painted walls, resembling a prison cell.
The playwright of ‘Prison’, Lia Karavia, was politically victimised by the army dictator in Greece and sentenced to jail. But the play she has written from her personal experiences does not restrict to any individual’s experience, rather it deals with a universal topic: an anti-racial struggle.
The protagonist of the play Nina narrated the physical and mental torture she faced for expressing her thoughts in her personal life. But her personal bitter experiences take a universal form when the characters state that such issues of freedom and discrimination have been quoted several times in the Bible and in the writings of the great philosophers, playwrights, revolutionaries and singers across the world, but no change has been made so far.
Rather, such noble words have been sealed in the coffin by the rulers, by creating obstacles in different shapes, the character observed in her narration.
Kudos goes to actor Anitta Suikkari for depicting wonderfully the mental explorations of the convicted Nina, going through diverse human emotions throughout the powerful narration, with gestures and spontaneous body movements onstage.
The stream of words in Nina’s narration shifted quickly from one emotion to another —mental strength, humour and fantasies, although the oppressive regime keeps her in a solitary cell to break her spirits.
The Norway-based Finnish actress Anitta Suikkari’s skilful rendering of the emotions and reactions of a complex character like Nina left the audience spell-bounded, overcoming the language barrier. The energetic actress also enacted several other characters that Nina encountered, to create visual images of her narration.
A message of equality was delivered at the closing part of the play when the protagonist expressed her desire to have a physical form incorporating the best features of limbs from different ethnic groups such as the silky, oily hair of the Japanese and the inherent physical strength of Kenyan runners. Freedom of thought is once again highlighted in the last line of the play, ‘You can keep me here forever, but my mind works, it travels, it flies!’ in Sami language, with English subtitles, projected on the white walls of the set for better understanding of the people.
The Norway-based Bangladeshi director of the play Kamaluddin Nilu, also deserves plaudit for his directorial composition and for successfully creating images and visual expressions of the monologue. Those who are acquainted with Nilu’s style of directing monologue-based productions know that in case of such compositions, Nilu remains well focused and gives great effort to create visual images of mental explorations through performances of the actor synchronised with simple music, set and light effects.
His direction of ‘Prison’ is also a good example of dealing with such a complex issue through simple but effective composition.
The play was presented to the Dhaka audience by the Norwegian indigenous theatre group Beaivváš Sámi Teáhter. Recently, the troupe staged three shows of the play at the Experimental Theatre Hall of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy in Sami language, which had been translated from the Greek original play by the playwright herself.
The troupe members have translated the play in Sami language from the Greek to be staged across the globe by the Sami community, especially in Asian, African and Latin countries, informed an organiser. The performance was arranged in collaboration with Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy and Centre for Asian Theatre.
Before coming to Dhaka, Beaivváš Sámi Teáhter, a troupe of Sami ethnic community in Norway, staged ‘Prison’ in Nepal.
Published in newagextra,December 17-23, 2010