I have always found it more difficult to sit through an ordinary play than a bad movie. Perhaps because I expect more from theatre than from cinema. Usually, I would find out what a play is about, who’s written it, who’s in it, etc before opting to watch it.
So, it was odd that I decided to watch Coffee in the Canteen, a play I knew nothing of. I will chalk it down to two reasons. One, it was playing at Tamasha Studio – a place I have recently developed starry-eyed adoration for. Two, I would avoid the peak hour traffic on the drive back to Sobo. The reasons, in themselves, should have created enough foreboding. There is a reason I am not an impulsive person.
‘Coffee in the Canteen’ focusses on the interpersonal relationships of four college friends as their college days draw to an end and they plan the next phase of their lives. They struggle with their decisions as they are torn between being pragmatic and chasing their dreams. It is easy to identify with their struggles as something many of us would have gone through. It will remind you of that guy who you thought was the happily ever after but is now reduced to an appearance on your FB timeline.
‘Coffee In The Canteen’ is not a bad play by any means. It provides a few memorable moments especially when actor Kavin Dave (popular-ish face on TV and film) is on stage. It is a fun one hour at the theatre but it does not create a lasting impression. It does not stimulate dialogue or challenge thought and ideas. It entertains, mildly, like a cafe latte. I prefer a double shot espresso.
Three days later, I am back on the western express highway. After navigating 90 minutes of peak hour traffic, I am at Prithvi for ‘Notes on Chai’. This play has created enough buzz among theatregoers for its fourth show to be sold out, and on a weeknight too. The artist Jyoti Dogra is known and appreciated enough for her to draw in the audience.
The auditorium is plunged into pitch darkness. As the seconds tick on, the unease in the audience is evident from the sound of the butts shifting in the seats and the throats being cleared. After about a minute, a spotlight shines on the artiste in the centre of the stage and she starts to move forward one high step at a time. So fluid is her movement, that it seems she is levitating. I am riveted.
For the next hour and a half Dogra inhabits several characters and changes her voice and body language as she flows in and out of their lives. While there is no denying the skill of the performer, it gets repetitive and some of the sounds that emanate from her grate on the nerves. Add to that, the lack of a gripping storyline and I find myself distracted and awaiting the darkness to claim the auditorium again. I come away, awed by the performer but underwhelmed by the performance. ‘I am a hard audience to please,’ I chastise myself.
For the rest of the week, I stay away from the theatre and stick to the friendly neighbourhood Starbucks for my beverage needs.