[Note: This is an insider's report as most of the Communications Team were onstage!]
Five hilarious comic skits, ten willing actors (some experienced and some not so) and eight days of practice. That's what it took to deliver an entertaining evening of dramatised play reading on 27 March 2019, for members and their guests.
Play reading in Bengali, Hindi and English has been a tradition at DI for several years now. This evening we had the English version. The KKR match and a predicted thunderstorm couldn't keep the appreciative audience away.
It all started on the evening on 11 March, when we all met up for the first round of auditions. Each actor read for more than one role before being selected for the final roles. With the very experienced Raju and Leslie taking the lead to direct and teach novice play readers like me. A WhatsApp group was duly formed since nothing works these days without one. Finally, three main plays and two filler plays were selected, duly edited and cast selected. All participants would come in for practice late evening at Cowper's and go back after much shared laughter and a few cups of tea. If the audience thought the plays were funny, the behind-the-scenes practice sessions had several more laughs due to numerous instances of jumbled dialogues. One that surely comes to mind is about the bald patch George Gower (Raju) had developed on his neck instead of his head! We had our first stage rehearsal on the very day of the performance. Black and white was the chosen dress-code for us actors. We heard ourselves on the microphones for the first time and with one last round of rehearsal, we were ready to go.
The emcee, Raju Raman, asked the audience about how many years they were married as he introduced the first play 'September song'' based on the golden wedding anniversary of Homer and Cathy Wellington played by Ian Zachariah and Gargi Banerjee. Ian and Gargi were fantastic as the bickering couple who couldn't live without each other although they grumbled about having to live with each other. The audience didn't have to be married for 50 years to identify with the funny and ironic banter between the 'geriatric' couple. The reminiscing of their wedding day when Homer carried Cathy over the threshold into their first home invoked much laughter when Homer declared that those actions had resulted in a hernia for him. Emotions ranging from jealousy (as Cathy danced with 7 'old pot-bellied men') to suspicion (upon seeing Cathy's pink panties), to love (Homer remembering to buy Cathy a gold ring on their golden anniversary) were beautifully essayed by our brilliant performers. The steady banter between the couple invoked much laughter and appreciation from the audience.
The next play Crosswords was performed by the very talented father-daughter duo, Leslie and Christabel. The hilarious conversation between two avid Crossword solvers of very varied intellect was a pleasure to watch. Simple crossword clues which 'even a five year old' could guess remained illusive to Leslie. He declared grandstand was the answer to the clue which read 'Green, often found on football fields'. Christabel, who was working on the complicated Mephistopheles crossword found it impossible to keep her calm and distance when she heard Leslie's answers to his preferred 'Sun junior coffee time easy clues' crossword. Leslie's declaration that even bats might be tempted to drink milk from bottles when hungry invited many chuckles. The audience could be seen guessing the easy answers to the crossword clues that Leslie struggled with, and laughing out loud upon hearing Leslie's preposterous answers and even more preposterous arguments defending his ridiculous answers. Leslie managed to put fishes in a coop instead of a tank, declared that red 'nose' could be picked in a garden, not a rose; declared that a queer bee recided in a beehive and not a queen bee. He even managed to put Roddy in Toyland instead of the famous Noddy. Christabel tried hard to keep her composure but when faced with someone with such low IQ she too lost her cool and got very unwillingly got involved in helping Leslie solve the Sun junior coffee time easy clues crossword.
After the second play, Raju declared a twelve-and-a-half minute break for the replenishment of empty glasses and hungry stomachs.
The next play 'A Question of Sex' by Arnold Bennet was dramatized by Raju Raman, Rituparna Sen, Stephen de Souza and Roshan Choudhury. The tantalizing title told the story of a brand new father, George, who stood to lose ten thousand pounds that his uncle Francis had declared he would give, if George and his wife Ada had a boy. George had a daughter and then went about with his sister May, trying to deceive his uncle that his daughter was a son. Uncle Francis had already been the recipient of the happy news of a daughter's birth from George's sister in law Helen. Francis's explanation about how he felt boys were helpless creatures led to much mirth and laughter from the rapt audience. Finally, Uncle Francis was forced to give the promised money as he tried to bribe his way out of having to see and hold the new born baby. Witty and ironic dialogue such as 'between Measels and Gout' and 'unreliability of women during childbirth' invoked loud laughter and applause.
Ian and Christabel took stage again to enact the funny and witty play 'The Assumed Interview'. The impossible interview candidate Christabel was impressive as she played the role of the applicant from hell. Right from the word 'go', the applicant was difficult to manage, be it the rightful assumption about her sex, her assumed skills, Christabel was impossible to pin down. The word play was captivating and the confused interviewer Ian was finally forced to hire the impossible applicant Christabel to manage him rather than the other way around.
Gargi came up and shared a fantastic account she read recently about Paul Newman and his effect on women. All women certainly remember those blue eyes and Gargi eloquently shared how a lady who met him ended up shoving her icecream into her purse rather than the change. We all had a fond laugh at this account.
The final grand finale of the evening was 'The Drowned Man' from Neil Simon's The Good Doctor, performed by Amit Dutt, Leslie D'Gama and Shishir Goenka. Amit, a writer, suffering from writer's block, goes to the pier and encounters a man who by profession was a Drowner. The play showed how the writer responded to the tramp's proposed suggestion of witnessing drowning as the evening entertainment. From disgust, to curiosity, to wonder about the world having gone mad, the writer goes through a whole gamut of emotions as he is finally unwittingly convinced to take up the tramp's offer of an exciting evening of 'maritime' entertainment.
Shishir as the conniving policeman, manages to convince the writer about the price he should pay for the show. The writer now armed with a suitable price, drives a hard bargain as he negotiates with the tramp, not knowing that he was falling prey to a cleverly planned rip-off. The witty dialogue invoked much laughter and several rounds of well deserved applause. Leslie's impersonation of drowning was inspiring as was Amit's wonder about the world having gone mad. The play ended as the writer had forgotten the name of person who was to have been called to save the tramp.
The entire cast lined up on stage for the final round of introductions and pictures. The evening had been a success. Many thanks to the entertainment committee and Terence for all the technical support. As participants, we will surely will miss the practices and banter that inevitably followed.