Imagine a play with just two actors, one of whom has not read the script. The actor who is the permanent member of the cast takes the other through unrehearsed dialogues, building the narrative till they reach the denouement. Experimental playwright Tim Crouch’s An Oak Tree is just such a play, taking its name from artist Michael Craig-Martin’s 1973 work of the same name, in which the artist asks us to believe that a glass of water has become a tree.
Crouch’s script follows the basic storyline of an encounter between a stage hypnotist and a father whose daughter has been killed by the hypnotist in a road accident. The grieving father’s encounter with the hypnotist forms the intriguing premise of the play.
Atul Kumar, founder and director of The Company Theatre, is bringing the celebrated play to the Indian stage with a series of performances in which he plays the role of the hypnotist inviting a different actor to share the stage each time. After performances at The Box in Pune, where actors like Niranjan Pedanekar, Ashwini Giri and Danish Husain shared the stage with Kumar, An Oak Tree is now playing at the Prithvi Theatre in Mumbai.
In a post on the Company Theatre Facebook page, Kumar wrote: "Finally, after such a long wait, after doubting whether theatres will ever re-open, I find myself standing in the wings, waiting to make an entry. Along with some wonderful other artists who have agreed to take the leap of faith, to trust me, to stand strong in supporting live arts. Not to mention my fellow theatre-wallahs and audiences who are coming in numbers and braving all odds—health, safety and otherwise. These are really extraordinary times for live theatre... I thank everyone and all powers that have come together to make this moment possible. Come join us, with open minds and hearts."
In the Mumbai leg of the play's tour, Kumar will be joined by actors Vijay Krishna Acharya and Vivek Gomber (lately seen in Bombay Begums) on Saturday and Sheeba Chadha and Mallika Singh on Sunday.
Directed by Kumar and Rachel D’Souza, the play marks Indian theatre’s return to the physical stage with a bang.
Till 14 March at Prithvi Theatre, Mumbai; two shows, 6pm and 9pm