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ABSURDO

Nov'2023

Director, Designer

An evening of absurdist storytelling based on texts from Enrique Jardiel Poncela, Fernando Arrabal and Virgilio Piñera.

One chases the enemy, another chases sleep. Somewhere, one devours an entire mountain while the other slurps on custard. Together they try to make sense of what’s between the lines, and the lines start to disappear. They let go of the questions when the answers begin to appear. Elsewhere, a town awakens to a dwindling yet satisfied populace, whilst a couple lay a picnic table amidst the gunfire. At the core of Absurdism is the acknowledgement that human endeavours to find meaning are often met with a universe that remains indifferent, and the search for inherent purpose is akin to chasing a mirage in a desert of existential uncertainty. Imagine a theatrical performance where the script is written in disappearing ink, and the actors are left ad-libbing in the face of an ever-changing narrative.

Absurdist theatre, a genre characterized by its exploration of the irrational, illogical, and chaotic aspects of the human experience, finds unique expressions in the works of Enrique Jardiel Poncela from Spain, Fernando Arrabal, also from Spain, and Virgilio Piñera from Cuba. While these playwrights share the label of "absurdist," their individual contributions exhibit distinct nuances and cultural influences. Poncela's absurdist works often showcase a satirical and humorous exploration of societal norms and human behaviour. Kaivalya Plays’ adaptation of his play "You Have the Eyes of a Femme Fatal," delves into the absurdity of modern love, desire, and human connection. Poncela's writing is characterized by wit and a keen observation of societal absurdities, often using humour as a lens to dissect human folly. Arrabal's absurdist plays, like "Picnic on the Battlefield," take a darker and more surreal turn. This piece portrays the futility and meaninglessness of war, exploring the absurdity of conflict where soldiers fight for indistinguishable motivations. Arrabal's unique blend of absurdity and surrealism creates a heightened, dreamlike atmosphere, challenging conventional narratives and norms. Piñera, hailing from Cuba, brings a distinctly Latin American flavour to the absurdist genre.

Kaivalya Plays is staging pieces from his collection of short stories called “Cuentos Frios” (English: Cold Tales), where he navigates the complexities of identity, civil rebellion, individual-first capitalism and mental health through a piercingly neutral, almost cold narration. Piñera's works often carry a socio-political undertone, reflecting the tumultuous history of Latin America. The absurdity in his plays serves as a mirror to the region's socio-cultural struggles, blending existential questions with the collective experiences of Latin American societies. While united under the umbrella of absurdist theatre, the works of Jardiel Poncela, Arrabal, and Piñera each offer a unique perspective on the absurdities inherent in the human condition. From Poncela's humour-infused societal critiques to Arrabal's surreal and dark exploration of war, and Piñera's socio-political reflections on identity and mental health, these playwrights contribute richly diverse layers to the tapestry of absurdist theatre.

Since its inception in 2012, Kaivalya Plays has been a conduit for bringing the voices of Latin American authors to the Indian stage. ABSURDO marks their thirteenth project in this genre, a testament to our ongoing commitment to Latin American drama and literature. Collaborating with Instituto Cervantes Nueva Delhi and various embassies, they’ve adapted and staged works by prominent authors, making these narratives resonate with Indian audiences. In ABSURDO, the group employs a diverse range of artistic techniques, from traditional theatre methods to non-conventional staging. Live projections, cameras, drawing, multilayered projection fabrics, and a multilingual performance (in English, Hindi, and Spanish with subtitles) enrich the audience's experience, breaking down language barriers and emphasizing the global relevance of the absurdities explored on stage. The stories composed through the latest digital technology tools create an engaging experience that often veers away from a traditional narrative to abstract voyages into themes of violence, excess, alienation, identity and meaninglessness.

Kaivalya Plays and Instituto Cervantes Nueva Delhi invite you to an evening of absurdist storytelling based on texts from Enrique Jardiel Poncela, Fernando Arrabal and Virgilio Piñera.

The running order of the evening includes:

INTERROGATORIO from “Cuentos Frios” by Virgilio Piñera
A prisoner is confronted with a fundamental question about identity. Presented In Spanish with English and Hindi subtitles.

YOU HAVE THE EYES OF A FEMME FATAL based on the text by Enrique Jardiel Poncela.
What happens when an all encompassing intelligence delves into the interplay of modern love, desire and seduction? Presented In English with Spanish and Hindi subtitles.

MONTAÑA from “Cuentos Frios” by Virgilio Piñera
Persistence, escape or something else entirely? Bit by bit, witness one’s attempt at a geological upheaval. Presented In Spanish with English and Hindi subtitles.

मांस (Meat) from “Cuentos Frios” by Virgilio Piñera
A famine leads to a town beginning to turn to a very personal kind of sustenance. Presented in Hindi with English and Spanish subtitles.

INSOMNIO from “Cuentos Frios” by Virgilio Piñera
An all too familiar state for so many, but is the escape worth the relief? Presented in Spanish with English and Hindi subtitles.

PICNIC ON THE BATTLEFIELD based on the text by Fernando Arrabal.
A family comes together for a lovely picnic in the middle of the battlefield. They are interrupted by an unexpected guest. Nothing unusual about that, right? Presented in English with Hindi and Spanish subtitles.

Read more about the performance on the Kaivalya Plays website.

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Whenever I am asked why I dedicate myself to the theatre, a medium so fragile and fleeting as compared to the impermanence and longevity of the screen, I usually respond - its not about the medium, but that fleeting moment I glimpse on stage, a careful reconstruction of “the real world ” but just a little bit heightened, twisted and different from the original. I hesitate to call myself a nihilist, mostly because I believe meaninglessness is not just a sad, miserable affair but also a fun, mischievous and hundred other feelings we feel when we try and make sense of this crazy world we live in. This is why I have so thoroughly enjoyed working on this production, a transcultural experiment in absurdism.

ABSURDO brings together 6 stories from 3 Hispanic authors — Enrique Jardiel Poncela (Spain), Fernando Arrabal (Spain) and Virgilio Piñera (Cuba) — on the Indian stage. With stories about war, mental health, late-stage capitalism and identity, the performance explores absurdist narratives, using unconventional staging, technology and media techniques. In the show, we use live cameras, live drawing, projection mapping, ambient sounds... and other methods that make the video (and sound) another performer on stage, alongside the human bodies. Exploring texts using these techniques is especially intriguing, for it allows us to abandon the "traditional" way to stage these and instead, look for connections between the non-human and the human aspects of the stories.

Creative Team

Directed by Varoon P. Anand and Gaurav Singh Nijjer

Performed by Dhruv Rai, Shubhra Tandon and Ramita Menon

Stage and Production Management by Sukriti and Vidit Singh

Translation, Subtitles and Language Production by Kanva Chaudhary, Aatika Khan, Riddhijit Chattopadhyay, Stuti Kanoongo, Kaustubh Rajwade and others

Documentation, Illustrations and Media by Riddhijit Chattopadhyay and Kaustubh Rajwade

Lights and Technical Assistance by Deeksha Vats and Vidit Singh

Voiceovers by Sukriti, Vidit Singh, Varoon P. Anand, Vidur Sehgal, Stuti Kanoongo

Supported by Instituto Cervantes Nueva Delhi

We would like to acknowledge and thank the administrative staff and the technical team of Instituto Cervantes Nueva Delhi for their support in realising this production.

Performance History

ABSURDO premiered at the Instituto Cervantes Nueva Delhi on November 27th 2023.

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