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Despite a too-common plot, this entertaining play about an Indian Odissi dancer was well-acted and danced.

Theatre Review (Singapore): ‘Gitanjali [I Feel the Earth Move]’ by The Necessary Stage

Gitanjali [I Feel the Earth Move] is The Necessary Stage’s (TNS) latest production. It ran at SOTA’s Drama Theatre from Septermber 26 to 28 2014.

Sagaram (left) and Shankara (fight). Photo credit: Caleb Ming / SURROUND
Sagaram (left) and Shankara (right).
Photo credit: Caleb Ming / SURROUND

Directed by Alvin Tan and written by Haresh Sharma, this is perhaps one of TNS’s and Sharma’s most accessible plays. Known for his experimental pieces, Sharma tells in Gitanjali a conventional type of story, set in the world of Indian classical dance known as Odissi.

Savitri (Padma Sagaram) is an aging Odissi dance teacher whose top student Priya (Raka Maitra) decides she wants to explore modern dance in Canada, leaving Savitri with the need to engage her son Shankara (Ebi Shankara) to help manage the school. However, things take a slight turn when Shankara is match-made with Singaporean Nandini (Sharda Harrison) and they decide to marry and relocate to her homeland, where Nandini faces struggles conceiving a child and also mending her broken heart over a past love.

Harrison (left) in a dance segment. Photo credit: Caleb Ming / SURROUND
Harrison (left) in a dance segment.
Photo credit: Caleb Ming / SURROUND

Gitanjali had skilled actors. Shankara was relaxed, natural and convincing in his portrayal, whilst Harrison played her tortured Nandini with equal parts pain and pathos. Sagaram was a little stiff, but delivered her Savitri’s cruel quips with such confidence that the audience felt the cut of her words as much as did the characters at whom the words were thrown.

Maitra doing a short Odissi piece. Photo credit: Caleb Ming / SURROUND
Maitra doing a short Odissi piece.
Photo credit: Caleb Ming / SURROUND

Although Maitra didn’t seem at ease acting on stage, she is clearly a trained Odissi dancer, unlike the Bharathanatyam dancer in my review of Dance Like a Man, and Maitra’s dance segments were truly a delight to watch.

Tan’s incorporation of dance and movement into the play, along with the haunting and captivating sound/music and singing from sound artist Bani Haykal and classical singer Namita Mehta respectively, certainly gave the production texture and dimension.

However, Rabindranath Tagore’s poems, which are said to be the basis of this play, as well as some other background references to things like the Mumbai riots of 1992, didn’t quite fit into the story and stood out of place.

Also, the plot itself was too common, something we’ve heard and seen in many variations before.

Having said that, the acting of the leads as well as Sharma’s funny dialogue and the memorable soundscape kept the production lively, and Gitanjali [I Feel the Earth Move] was definitely entertaining and worth experiencing.

About Sharmila Melissa Yogalingam

Ex-professor, Ex-phd student, current freelance critic, writer and filmmaker.

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