An interesting opportunity for Actors around Melbourne….READ ON FOR DETAILS! Making of ‘The Lost Dog’
Drama is a cathartic experience for both the actors and the audience, because in that shared experience of a performance of a story, that is somewhere their own, the audience is moved and purged of sub-conscience trauma. When people of a shared culture, living with shared concerns, and undergoing a shared transformation, come together to participate in a dramatic presentation of a serious and noble character, they attain a state called catharsis, as defined in Poetics. Since the play rakes up some important existential questions and engages its audience in conflicting emotions about alienation, loneliness, and loss of home and identity, it becomes an engaging, cathartic experience for them.
Do we really need a new play about Indian Immigrants?
A new play brings with it new issues and offers a fresh perspective to life’s quintessential questions. New scripts are valuable for the fact that they chronicle the dynamics of social change. Drama that goes beyond aesthetics and entertainment is in the realm of serious literature. On the one hand the play, The Lost Dog, is serious and powerful in its rendition of the subject; on the other it is equally humorous and entertaining.
In my interface with many Indian immigrants’ and students I realised that they need to identify with something in the culture of their adopted country. By creating a body of literature for their sake and making plays suitable for them we will help them cope better and further integrate meaningfully in their milieu.
About the Play
Subject and its relevance
The play, The Lost Dog, is a dramatised story of Indian Immigrants in Australia. The story unfolds in present times and explores the attempts of an Immigrant protagonist at acculturation in a foreign country. The play tells of how immigrants strive to make another country their own and the emptiness they eventually deal with. Alienation in a foreign land, the loss of identity, the struggle to deal with hostile natives, and eventually becoming one with the people of their adopted country is what makes an Immigrant story powerful and universal. Further, the play examines culturally determined biases and hostility that have their origin in race, and its fallout in a pluralistic, multi-cultural society such as ours.
Though the play raises a serious issue it uses sardonic humour to tell the story. The play has been written in an absurd-realist mode for creative use of space and director’s imagination.
The conflict about immigrating to a foreign land is established soon after the play begins. The conflict heightens with rising action when the dog comes onstage and the argument between two friends builds up, for and against migration. Hypocrisy and arrogance are displayed in Gary’s demeanour as he patronizes a friend who lives in third world and is seemingly less successful than him. Soon, arrogance falls on its face when Gurinder learns of a racial attack on an Indian student. As the play veers towards Pawan’s stance on migration the play takes another turn and a moment of tension build-up is introduced. At this point in the play, come in two young Aussie boys, bringing with them a whiff of youthful camaraderie. The conflict resolves as the incidents play themselves out and the play ends with a metaphor on human behaviour and displacement.
The Making of the script
My interface with Indian students as a housemate and a friend/relative gave me an insight into their struggles and fears that eventually became the basis of the play. I met with many students to research my play, from the ones who had landed a week back in Melbourne to the ones who had established themselves in the country and gone on to become proud Australian citizens; I covered a spectrum of Indian Aussies. The play has been modified over the last two years after several rounds of feedback from Indian community and further research on the subject.
The play was first posted, by me, on a theatre portal for Australia, where it received favourable comments from some senior and acclaimed directors of Australian Theatre. The play has had over 820 hits. Later, because of its socio-political relevance the play was posted on ‘Australiana’, the official blog of Jean-Francois Vernay, the author of ‘The Great Australian Novel – A Panorama’.
A play such as ‘The Lost Dog’ may speak of Indians but it can be extrapolated to a larger immigrant population, of not only Australia, but across the globe and over time. The story of the first immigrants to Australia would have been no different.
Migrant literature has a place in literary writings today. It brings to fore a whole gamut of sociological issues of displacement, identity, racism, hybridity, and location between cultures. The play, The Lost Dog, is best described as a fictionalised account of migrants’ lived experiences in Australia.
The play script has been written in a manner to involve audience during the performance. Action moves in three spaces; the audience space, stage, and behind the stage. Actors enter and exit all three spaces as and when needed. This creates a feeling of continuity during the performance as also of a shared space.
Even though the play is in real time and real place, techniques such as using a human actor to play a dog and an imaginary wall to demarcate areas, bring in elements of absurdity. In doing away with the wall the continuity and oneness of space has been achieved. A nearly barren stage will evoke the feeling of ‘emptiness’ in the minds of the audience. Emptiness and alienation is the predominant emotion in the play.
The girl at the sales counter in the restaurant remains an off-stage character to make her an object of fantasy for Pawan.
The ‘lost dog’ character is a metaphorical device in the play to draw a parallel between the sense of loss a dog feels on being separated from his master and losing his way back home, and juxtaposing it with the sense of alienation immigrants experience. The dog becomes a character in the play when he stiffens and becomes alert upon the entry of Philip and Mike. The dog and Indian boys heighten tension with their expressions of fear and nervousness.
Intangible emotional states such as emptiness, alienation, cultural disconnect, and longing called for an absurd treatment of the subject.
An ongoing journey
Taking the play to stage is only a step in finishing the script. With every production and multiple interpretations the play evolves further. Drama is sum of one person’s life’s experiences and whatever sense he makes of his life. From life to stage is an ongoing journey of the story that must be told.
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