Thursday, November 24, 2011

Soul in Sole and Sand

Review of the theatre production "Step by Step" by Mahima A Jain

There is earth, water, wind, light and all this entwined with human life -- and “Step by Step” tells you the intimate connection among them all. It is a non-textual, physical theatre about the poetry of life. It metaphorically explores the connection of man and earth, and the importance of Earth in life’s ventures.

A large portion of the audience at the Goethe Institut (former Max Mueller Bhavan) , where the play was staged on Monday, were school kids who cheered and laughed at the sequences on show, which must have seemed comical to them, oblivious to the greater ideas the play presented. Sure enough, “Step by step” was not just entertainment, but an epiphany of life and earth.

The performance overplays the rudiments of biosphere: blowing wind to cause motion, pouring water for growth of plants, sunflower in clouds, stepping into water, treading on toes, flying, and singing, feeling the earth, leaving imprints behind.
“Step by Step” opens with Silvia and Pahl asking the audience to puff at them. And when there is enough “wind”, the artists scud and waft around the stage, creating motion using “energy” from the audience. The production picks up from there in a devised manner, from motion to development to contact to accomplishment.

Asked where she got the idea from, Silvia said, “I was meditating and then it struck me – our feet are in direct contact with the earth and thus to everything in the world.” Pahl explained that children grow up in a virtual world and so the idea was to give them a taste of reality and the experience it has to offer.
While the simplicity of stage elements directs attention to the artists, the performance itself is a fusion of varied art forms: ventriloquism to musical instruments, light-and-sound to slapstick. Both artists deftly use the toy piano, melodica, glockenspiel and Kalimba (thumb piano) at various points. They ingeniously create and incorporate live sound effects, in par with a Foley artist’s work in a studio. Barring one German song about flying on swings, the production hardly relies on speech or dialogues.

In the end, Silvia steps into a patch of wet soil, glorifying the tactile and auditory experience. She steps out and walks across a white sheet – step by step. Pahl follows, but not on foot. Instead he closes his fists, dips it into the wet soil and then presses the side of his fist on the sheet, imprinting a smaller set of foot prints. The audience follows suit and while kids frolic in wet earth, the proposal of the play dawns upon me - surpassing motion and development, leaving imprints behind.

“Step by Step – The course that life takes” by theatre 3 hasen oben is a creation of artist-directors Wilmanns Pahl and Silvia Klaus and is co-directed by Gunther Baldaff. Since 1998 “Step by Step” has been staged sixty times.

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