In a world where storytelling is often chastised upon so as to adhere to conventional forms, exciting and refreshing ways of expression are a welcome delight! Object theatre is one such form that has been around since the seventies but is gaining popularity only now. In theatre of object the human resigns from the pivotal spot and ordinary objects take centre stage.
Picture this, ordinary objects from your daily life tell stories! Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876-1944) with his dramas of objects was one of the pioneers of this unique style. In his play Vengono (1915), objects have their own lives, and can move around as shadows. While in Il teatrino dell’amore (The Little Theatre of Love), objects become characters that express through different sounds instead of words.
One of the earliest accounts of object theatre happens to be Julio Molnar’s Tre Piccoli Suicidi that featured him, a glass of water, some sweets and a digestive tablet. As Julio changed his voice to illustrate conversation between the sweets, the audience found themselves lost in another realm of fiction. When he suddenly unwrapped the sweets and discarded the shiny wrappers, they were brought back to reality!
The thing about objects is that they are not entirely ‘lifeless’ and they are not full of drama either. But when you find a balance and assign human attributes to them, objects begin to narrate stories! A scarf can be a dancer, a potato can be used for political protest! Objects allow for multiple interpretations and the possibilities are endless!
In Molnar’s play when he dissolves the digestive tablet, a seemingly familiar occurrence, the
audience is appalled. As the tablet had been personified through the play, some assumed that it committed suicide. Another assumed that it had been drowned. The beauty of object theatre is that none of them were wrong. And this is what objects do! They present to you a wide range of propositions and associations through vivid imagination.
In object theatre, imagination is the most important participant. There is an energy around every object that demands a certain level of participation from the audience. As the audience becomes more conscious, the emotions from the object begin to emerge. Its almost like an abstract painting, wherein you see what you want to see.
In India, Choiti Ghosh is one of the most celebrated theatre maker who uses objects as a primary form of storytelling. Ghosh has been associated with theatre since the age of four, and has worked with Habib Tanvir’s Naya Theatre, Anurupa Roy’s Katkatha Puppet Arts Trust and with Sunil Shanbag. She started Tram Theatre in 2011 with the aim to specialize in object theatre. Her most memorable performances have been A Bird’s Eye View where Ghosh tells the story of Milu, a war pigeon through toys and Dhaaba where she explored the concepts of inclusivity and social order with the use of vegetables!
As the Indian art landscape is transforming, groups like Tram Theatre are finding eager audiences, and this unique form is picking pace. We are keen to see the growth and evolution of Object theatre in India and hope that more theatre makers incorporate this form.