Hyderabad: Imagine four people playing 40 characters in a span of two hours, that too in a comedy, which strangely draws inspiration from an Alfred Hitchcock espionage thriller. And so, we have Patrick Barlow’s play The 39 Steps, which was staged on Saturday. It was a debut performance of the city’s newest English experimental theatre group, The Lord Chamberlain’s Men.
Although the name of the group is ambitious in itself, alluding to the original group for which Shakespeare had written for most of his career, the eight-member team insists that their primary aim is to explore new possibilities and bring different forms of theatre to the city. The group has spent four months, just rehearsing their first play.
“Memorising the lines has been the least of our worries,” says Laukik Desai who plays 13 characters in the play which is based on one man’s tryst, to prevent an organisation of spies from stealing top-secret information. “We had to switch between Scottish and British accents and production-wise, go on from playing one character to the next in a matter of seconds. That’s why we wore layers of clothing so that the transformation was swift. Marking the boundaries between the characters needed to be worked on as well,” he adds.
But the bigger problem was the fact that all the members are working professionals and had to balance the workload in their offices and their passion for theatre, simultaneously. “We would practice for four hours, in the morning and evening and for the last few weeks we have spent up to ten hours everyday, in rehearsal. Our music director was based out of Bengaluru, so that aspect had to be coordinated over Skype,” says Riyaz Usman, the director of the play. Even then uncertainties did prevail. Laukik adds, “We kept practising, keeping in mind that any of us would have to travel for work and then we would have to find a new actor and start from the scratch. But in a way, the uncertainties kept us going.”
After a houseful show this weekend, the group plans on doing a few more shows before moving on to a next production. “We are planning to do a play around Monty Python and the Flying Circus which would be a musical. We might take some time to come out with it, but hopefully it will be something new for the audience in Hyderabad to see and appreciate,” says Riyaz....