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Shalini Singh
Shalini Singh


Loretta - A commentary on cultural xenophobia


If a work by theatre director Sunil Shanbag is being staged, expect something cheeky and political. Despite the pretty-looking brochure belying the nature of the play—a breezy story about a family's life in Goa and the traditional form of 'tiatr'—the sideshows set against the main narrative proved to be quite provocative.

Loretta was the second play shown at the ongoing theatre festival, Aadyam, at Delhi's Kamani auditorium on May 27-28. With personalisation being the trend these days, the audience was treated to colourful mocktails and live music prior to the performance.

Set in the 1970s, Loretta (Rozzlin Pereira in her debut role) is an Anglo-Indian girl from Bombay who falls in love with people and natural beauty of Goa the moment she sets foot on an island which is owned by Antonio Moraes (Abhijit Bhor), her boyfriend Rafael's (Saattvic) father, who lives with his Man Friday, Caitu (Danish Husain).

As the generational gaps tighten between father and son – the former wants to fly away to Europe on procuring a Portuguese passport, the latter wants him or anyone who wants to stay on the island to learn Konkani. They are also divided on their ideas of love and marriage—Rafael sees marriage as a binding force while Antonia recalls tenderly his wife's love that set him free.

On the other hand is Loretta, driven by her growing love for the land and language, unwittingly brings the two together. She starts to learn the language with the help of Caitu and locals, beginning with the kitchen. Move aside erudite scholars, Loretta's proficiency test in the language comes from being able to “efficiently bargain and buy fish in the local market”.

The play weaves in ideas of politics of language, insularity versus openness, the direct relationship between keepers of linguistics and snobbery, ideas of development and progress (told through the tussle between building a bridge to the island much against the wishes of Moraes who believes the ferry is the only route people must take to get there.)

The sideshows—integral as socio-political satire to the form of tiatr—written by lyricist Varun Grover, enacted by Husain and Asif Ali Beg, against the physical backdrop of newspaper headlines, take on the establishment, gently at first, amping up the biting satire subsequently. The director calls it a tribute to the traditional form and the earlier great tiatrists. In Loretta, they take on the issues of rewriting history textbooks, intellectuals and the concept of dissent under attack, Bose files, Nehru, Gandhi, Godse and other recent controversies.

Watch out for Husain's robust performance, director Shanbag also makes brief but memorable entries into the sideshows. Pereria is good in her debut mainstream theatre role, while Shilpa Sane as Audu, the fisherwoman, stands out too.

Coming out of the 120+ minute-performance in central Delhi, one couldn't help wonder at the timing of it. All arterial roads leading to the iconic India Gate had been closed, throwing the bewildered traffic in a tizzy for several hours. The government was, after all, celebrating two years of being in office—with a mega show of its own.

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Topics : #theatre

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