One World Theatre unveils a fascinating production of In the Red and Brown Water in Kathmandu
PICS: STÉPHANE HUËT
Tarell Alvin McCraney’s In the Red and Brown Water is a lyrical tragedy set in the ‘distant present’ of the fictional town of San Pere, Louisiana, and relates the story of Oya, a young woman who ‘runs like the wind’.
She refuses a track scholarship in a state university to stay with her suffering mother. When Mama Moja dies, Oya desperately runs after another target: getting pregnant. She then hesitates between passion with Shango and security with Ogun.
The plot is set in an Afro-American context, which has nothing to do with Nepal. “I would have never directed this play in the US with non-Black actors,” admits director, Deborah Merola. Still, the themes covered are universal and surely struck resonance last week with every Nepali and expat in the audience at the Theatre Village: social pressure, accomplishment, motherhood, dream and reality.
The production and the performance of The One World Theatre make the story remarkably translucent and easy to watch. Alize Biannic from France succeeds in turning Oya’s radiant smile progressively into dramatic expressions. Divya Dev is sensitive as the stuttering Ogun, who recovers the ability to talk when Oya falls in his arms. Rojita Buddhacharya and Binita Baral have minor roles in Act 1, but brilliantly portray characters Nia and Shu, who gain in importance as the play goes on. The amazing Loonibha Tuladhar steps out, as she flawlessly interprets the Afro-American aunt Elegua (see below).
The play could do with some tiny technical adjustments. While the light should have put emphasis on the ‘gift’ Oya gives to Shango at the end, the stage gets darker and the action loses intensity. In the meantime, the two musicians in the corner of the stage add nothing much to the play, except when it comes to moving the rain stick that gives the needed aquatic atmosphere.
Still, the setting deserves praise. The minimalist decor serves McCraney’s powerful text well, and the patchwork of colours painted by Kurchi Dasgupta helps blur the boundary between dream and reality. The display adds vividness to the characters’ gestures and also reveals some of their inner emotions. The play also involves some bad language without falling into vulgarity, whereas the sexuality is made beautifully suggestive through dancing – an alternative added by Merola who rightfully takes advantage of the talents of Alize Biannic, a former dancer of the Royal Ballet of London.
Deborah Merola’s adaptations are often considered to be too long. But her creative direction and the talented actors of the One World Theatre make this In the Red and Brown Water a fascinating piece of theatre.
In the Red and Brown Water
5 to 14 September, 5.30pm
6 and 13 September, 1.30pm
The Village Theatre, Lajimpat
When Loonibha Tuladhar appears on the stage, you would be forgiven for feeling like you have arrived at the Louisiana bayou. The actress is perfect as the busybody aunt Elegua, godmother of Oya. Tuladhar (pic) talks and gestures like a stereotypical Afro-American woman from the popular imagination.
One had to reconfirm that Tuladhar was indeed a Nepali. “I’m actually from a typical Newari family of Kathmandu,” she says after the show. “I’m a big fan of Queen Latifah and Will Smith, so it wasn’t difficult to pick up the accent and gestures.”
Loonibha Tuladhar’s incredible talent bursts forth in her performance in Merola’s In the Red and Brown Water. She is never louder than the other characters, and her performance is never a caricature.