Alarms and excursions

On the 8th, 9th and 10th October 2008, Dramanon, a young and talented Bangalore theatre group, are staging their new play (or rather, three-plays-in-one), titled "Alarms and Excursions" at Ranga Shankara.

I first noticed Dramanon when they put up a foyer performance at Ranga Shankara, and later watched two of their productions: ‘The Original Last Wish Baby’ and later, ‘Pizzazz’. I found Sharanya Ramprakash, the present "chief" of Dramanon, and her team of thespians to be a committed, sincere young theatre group, battling financial odds to stay in theatre. The group was established in Bangalore in 2007, with a group of youngsters who studied in Manipal. Dramanon has staged around 20 productions till date and has staged four shows of ‘The Original Last Wish Baby’, a political satire, at both Alliance De Francaise (Feb, 2007) and The Ranga Shankara (May, 2007).

Scene from second playlet, Alarms

Scene from second playlet, Alarms (Pic: Deepa Mohan)

‘Alarms and Excursions’ ran for about two hours. It is a combination of three short playlets, by the British playwright, Michael Frayn. ‘Doubles’ has two couples who check into two mirror-image hotel rooms next to each other, and find that their experiences, reactions and words, too, are almost identical with each other. ‘Alarms’, the second playlet, has a gadget-happy couple inviting their close friends to dinner, and the contretemps that result when the gadgets display a mind of their own. ‘Immobiles’, the third and final playlet, shows the misunderstandings created by a lack of mobile phones, resulting in broken bones and broken hearts.

The cast had their lines well-rehearsed and the plays were put across very convincingly. Lights and sound (Vasanth) were both well-managed and contributed to the effect of the play. Costumes were well-chosen, and the stage props, including two ‘bathrooms’ which were white screens through which the silhouettes of the ‘users’ could be seen, were innovative.

However, I do feel that Dramanon should start choosing plays with a little more meat to them, rather than such frothy pieces. Of course, the audience seemed to be in the typical weekend mood, easily entertained and ready to laugh at the first hint of anything comic; so the play jelled well; but certainly, the talent that Dramanon displays is worthy of better plays.

I discussed the play with two other theatre goers, and both felt that the playlets’ running time should have been cut down. Once the point about every couple being similar to each other was made, the first playlet dragged on a bit; the last one, too, could have been cut a little shorter. To me, personally, the dramatic situation lacked any new insight, and felt rather insipid; not all the good acting could lift it up beyond the mundane.

Scene from first playlet, Doubles

Scene from first playlet, Doubles (Pic: Deepa Mohan)

When Sharanya introduced the crew after the play, some of the names were drowned out. For some reason, she didn’t introduce the cast at all! I think that everyone should be introduced to the audience, and the assumption should not be made that the audience knows the cast well. I have watched at least three performances by Dramanon before, and I still could not recollect everyone’s name.

Also, something good that they were doing earlier was missing…a brochure about the play. I think it is an absolutely essential thing to have a brochure that describes the play, mentions the name of the cast and crew members (and, of course, the people who have helped or sponsored the production), and includes email id/phone details so that feedback can be sent. When this is missing, the production becomes a fleeting event rather than meaningful theatre. The audience needs to be more invested in the theatre group, particularly when it is a local one, and a brochure would go a long way in keeping the communication between the two open.

Another point–at Ranga Shankara, because of the strictness in the starting time and the free seating, most of the audience arrive at least half an hour early. Therefore, if a play runs for 90 minutes, and has a 15 minute break as well, it becomes too long an evening for most patrons. Theatre groups staging plays here should also remember that Ranga Shankara is not handy for public transport either, at the end of the play.

However, I cannot fail to mention the excellent parathas on the menu at the Ranga Shankara Cafe (which Anju runs so ably) which actually became dinner for us, and made it a ‘supper theatre’ evening. The cafe at Ranga Shankara is a warm, open space that people can use at all times, and is a great place to spend a little time in.


  1. Siri Srinivas says:

    Incidentally, I was at the play at Rangashankara too. And I have similar things to say. I thought the play was excellent in all but the first playlet was longer than it could have been. And initially, I couldn’t shake off the view that the attempts to look and sound British were a little too contrived. But when I spoke to Sharanya the next day, she sounded excited and made a passing mention about how this was ‘the first show’ which perhaps explained the initial shaky scenes and exaggerated performances.

    I liked the second act, and I thought the third act was lovely. Maybe I was just coming to enjoy the play that it didn’t seem all that long to me.

    I wrote similar things about the stage and screen-light bathrooms in my piece too!

    Again, I thought the exact same thing about the credits. I was ready, pen in hand, to write down names. The actors who played Lynn(in the first act) and Lawrence were particularly good I thought. It was strange she didn’t introduce the actors though.

    I would recommend it to people who are looking forward to a nice play on a very leisurely evening.

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