“ALL new works start with ‘What If?’ That gave us the Black Swan, for example,” says director-dancer Lam Ghooi Ket of the upcoming premiere of his monodrama, The Crimson Curtain.
The Crimson Curtain When: April 22-23, @ 4.30pm
Where: Geethashankarandance Studio + Haven, Menara Sentral Vista, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur
Invitations at a donation of RM20 available at GSD Studio + Haven or call 017 6266725.
It took him 10 years to find the right performer for his original script, featuring six characters, both male and female. When India’s Sandhya Manoj started making waves with her strong portrayals of women, including the recent Katha: A Story of Women (April 1), Lam knew he had found his Vasundhara.
The Crimson Curtain, set at the end of 19th century, centres on a temple dancer, Vasundhara, who is not born into the devadasi tradition but inherited it out of circumstances beyond her control. It is a time when devadasis were no longer regarded as handmaidens of the gods. Vasundhara struggles within herself to find meaning and purpose. The play delves into the present, future and past of Vasundhara. How does a devadasi reconcile the conflicts and moral dilemma that beset someone in her position in society? Or does she need to?
Lam has directed several plays for the Temple of Fine Arts including monologues Journeys to the Buddha (2006), and Chalo Shaadi Karenge (2014), an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Taming Of The Shrew.
“I wrote my play in 2007. There was joy in creating the story,” he muses during at a chat at his office, also the Geethashankaran Dance studio and the venue of his show, in Brickfields.
“But for it to go on stage, it calls for acting. But let me tell you that when you approach the experience with an open heart, beautiful things happen. What is important is for Sandhya to feel the characters. She has the courage to self-examine, given her past works, and as a dancer, the means to make it happen on stage.
“It’s easy to direct Sandhya; she catches on fast,” says Lam.
This last compliment draws smiles like rays of sun after rain from the 39-year-old Sandhya, who is also the co-founder of a yoga school in Petaling Jaya. Sandhya learnt odissi under Lam’s wife, Geetha Shankaran, starting at TFA about 18 years ago. She is also well versed in bharatanatyam and in mohiniattam.
Explains Lam: “In dance, the pieces are set by the masters and we don’t go very far from the traditions. The Crimson Curtain is classical in form but the premise is exploratory. We are digging into the canons. It’s all abhinaya.”
Although the monodrama is choreographed by Geetha, Sandhya will be using gestures, expressions of face and limbs to express Vasundhara’s thoughts, and Lam’s poignant script.
Sandhya, who has performed extensively in India, says: “I am used to the stage, but this is my acting debut. As I read the script, and the scene, we are rearranging the DNA of each character. It’s almost like creating the character.”
If there were a part that resonates with Sandhya, she says it is at the very start where her character addresses the audience and tells of the fakery in her life. Quotes Sandhya: “I have lost my youth and my beauty… it’s in the eyes… the little lines that creep up from nowhere to stay just under the eyes. And the lines that quietly reside near the corners of the mouth. At first, a bit of makeup and powder will hide them… but not for long.”
Adds Lam: “It’s not just memorising lines. Yes, I could direct like that but there is no pleasure in it. The content is the inner being of the character. The words alone won’t work here.”
He hopes The Crimson Curtain, 75 mins long, tugs at the heartstrings, and that it will challenge our personal perceptions of relationships. It is accompanied by music of the period performed by violinist Hariraam Tingyuan Lam, and wardrobe and makeup by Deena Pillai.
There will a question-answer session with Lam and Sandhya after the show.