About 3 years ago, as the bunch of pioneering theatre students of the country embarked on this journey to discover the art of performing on stage and everything that made the art form it was, I was one of those students whose hand seldom shot up unlike some of the other ‘bright’ students when a question about theatre was asked on the first day of class. Soon we began our early theoretical studies delving into various theatrical traditions, including that of Greek Theatre and that was really the first time I discovered my love for the art that spoke of Hamartia (tragic flaw), Catharsis (purification and the emotional response of the audience), Mimesis (Imitation), Pathos (suffering) and Hubris (excessive pride).
When I was offered to direct a Greek Tragedy three years later, I knew how big of an opportunity it was to give the audience something so raw and so full of emotions. It was about making sure these Greek terms were not just long forgotten textbook phrases. I remember telling a production member when blood was smeared on the white cloth and how important it was to justify the agony of it all; the tragic stories our ancient Greek fathers had profoundly left behind. Medea was one such story that had to be told, because of its simple ability to unearth some of the most catastrophic kind of raw human emotions and yet had to be very deeply and subtly tackled and portrayed on the stage.
When I first came across this story of Medea and Jason, the latter who was already an ancient Greek hero, with powerful themes like justice, morality, revenge, betrayal of marriage, child killing all of which is put across beautifully by Euripides in an unfolding series of tragic events, my co directors, the script team and I had spent days and nights on revising the script with full of brilliant epiphanies and I must say, every one of us delivered. The power, of course, lied in our story and our connection with it.
The play had a Greek Chorus of 7 members. They were trained and choreographed to bring out 7 different emotions as they posed and spoke with their masks on. As soon as the stage lights lit up their masks and togas, they looked magnificent as they delivered exactly what my co directors and I had envisioned.
The actors portraying the characters in the play did what they had never done before, to encounter and absorb every last bit of those powerful emotions and doing so by concentrating on the way they moved on stage. There was no rightful expression of the character, but only bringing out the pain that was born out of justifying the actions of that character. Loss and a magnitude of peripeteia lied within every one of those characters.
Medea, unlike most other tragic stories, gives us Hamartia right in the beginning. As the director, this was pivotal to my understanding of its plot and my vision of opening the doors for the audience to experience the pathos till the very end and like me, some might even discover justification in the end, but the clash of morality and revenge is absolutely subjective and one always does have a choice. To have all the emotions at their peak in Episode 9 of the play as Medea slits her sons’ throats to seek revenge on her unfaithful husband and to experience at the very next moment the purging of those emotions to something so cold and so lifeless like the fresh corpses of the little boys in Medea’s lap, full of blood, is something only a few of us working on the production, the actors and the live audience could truly fathom.