Play Review: Hideaway by Verbum

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Backed by impeccable acting and an intricate plot, the annual production of Verbum, the English Dramatics Society of Sri Venkateshwara College, trod on the tricky territory of pedophilia and virtual reality. It asked questions like – should our imagination collide with “morals”, what are ethics, and what all constitutes our identity? The prospect of “Hideaway”, a play promising to be a sci-fi drama, which had words “virtual reality” and “near future” in its synopsis didn’t exactly set my heart racing. But then I was given a free pass by the organisers (let’s be real, who resists free stuff), and the venue was the beautiful India Islamic Cultural Centre, I couldn’t resist and went to watch the play anyway and I’m glad that I did. The play opened with the spotlight on the interrogation table. On the table, there was a smoldering cigarette, Sims aka Papa, the creator of a virtual world called “The Hideaway”, where those suffering from the pedophilic disorder can “blow off steam” and lives their fantasies, and Morris, a detective who is trying to uncover the secrets of “The Hideaway”. There are five main characters: Iris, a virtual character who severs “guests” in the Hideaway, Doyle, an investigative agency insider who imposes Iris, and Mr. Woodnut, a frequent visitor to the Hideaway. The crux of the narrative revolves around Detective Morris’s interrogations that aim to expose the Hideaway and the relationships forged in the realm. I can’t write the plot properly, not just because I don’t want to give away spoilers, but also because I’m not sure if my summarisation will be able to do justice to the intricacies of the plot. The direction by Akshaj Saini and Dasoju Sai Sanket is skilled. They made sure that the entrances and exits are smooth.  I felt that they divided the stage space too starkly in left and right which made it inconvenient to see and hear what is going on if you happen to sit anywhere other than the centre seats. The direction predominantly had two main backdrops: one of interrogation table and other of the realm.  The background in the later stages changed often. There were instances where two scenes were running parallelly. These settings called for proficient light work and this is where team Verbum fell short. The folks who managed the lights were spot on with the spotlight, but fell prey to clumsiness while adjusting lighting from A to B, revealing a significant portion of the crew (dressed in black and unnerved by the onslaught of visibility) swiftly shifting chairs and tables. The music, handled by Ankita Podder and Abhimanyu Singh, complimented and built the atmosphere. At certain segments, it was so melodious and calm that I felt myself being physically relaxed. The last scene, which is marvelously executed and written, owes its impact to the music that accompanies it. The story could have been made more interesting by imaginative staging. It’ll be great if Verbum changes the obnoxious gramophone. When even their cognac bottle looks perfect then the ersatz gramophone appears to be a shame. Akshaj Saini mastered the art of body language; you could see his posture shift from confident to defensive. When he coddled Iris, I could sense slyness underneath the charm. His subtle, but impactful expressions like a simple stare or a slight movement of hands across his face conveyed all messages. Every time he uttered “Fuck”, I twitched because the pronunciation was so definite with disgust.  Karthik Dammu played Mr. Woodnut satisfactorily. To put it simply, he effortlessly humanised pedophiles, that’s how convincing his guilty demeanour was. Natika Niyogi embodied Iris with utmost grace. When she cried I was pained. Her sorrow was all-encompassing, and her acting was skillfully executed. I would have “crossed-over” into the play, only to give her a hug. Rishika Kaushik’s enaction of Detective Morris was powerful. She made me sign up for team Morris from the very first scene. Her conviction and self-righteousness seeped out of each word she spoke made and made me root for her. Deepan Gondolay played Doyle and he is neither good nor bad. In all honesty, I didn’t notice him (but I did notice his pepper grey hair) until the last scene which, in all fairness, he owned. Watch this some one-hour long production if you are interested in digital humanities, psychology, or good theatre.   Feature Image Credits: Verbum Niharika Dabral [email protected]]]>

Niharika Dabral is an average anti-national feminist who is currently pursuing Journalism at Cluster Innovation Center. This quixotically honest and technologically challenged Garhwali strongly advocates that Harry Potter must be included in elementary education. If you want to rant about how unfair life is or want to share something awful or awesome that needs to be reported then feel free to drop her a line at [email protected] 

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