Lifeline 99 99

February 2021

Co-Director, Performer, Technical Director

An interactive one-on-one performance over a phone call that combines live storytelling with IVRS

Lifeline 99 99 is an absurd telephone line that interrogates the greed and alienation of human experiences. The audience calls a phone number, where they hear an IVRS voice that asks them certain questions and subsequently connects them to any one of the five fictional experiences available – a one on one conversation – a conflicted sex chat operator or an aggrieved idealist or a dude alien or a dead insurance agent or art itself, personified. These experiences may last anywhere between 35 minutes to 60 minutes depending on how the audience interacts (and influences) the story being told. The entire performance takes place on the phone, there is no visual element or screens involved, making it markedly different from other digital theatre projects.

The show premiered for audiences in India in February 2021 with four housefull weekends and 140+ hours of one-on-one calls. This experience is now available to audiences in India, United States and United Kingdom.

"An example of how theatre has adapted to and thrived in socially distanced times"
- Mint Lounge

"Lifeline 99 99 shines as an experimental art practice among the evolving theatre explorations in the Indian sub-continent. This is one phone call you definitely do not want to miss."
- Firstpost

“Perhaps the intent of Lifeline 99 is precisely this, to remind us what it means to be human and what it means to offer our humanity.”
- Homegrown

"(Lifeline 99 99) stands out as one of the more innovative forms of theatre which have mushroomed in the post-Covid, socially distanced era."
- The Daily Guardian

"Lifeline 99 99 is a one-of-a-kind play that blends Interactive Voice Response Service (IVRS) technology with live storytelling over the phone."
- Mid Day India

"Creative expressions find a way even in the toughest of times. One example is Lifeline 99 99, an interactive play, by Delhi-based Kaivalya Plays, that takes place over a phone call."
- New Indian Express

"It's a format born of the pandemic. A new kind of theatrical experience invites listeners to dial in and listen to a story as it unfolds live. If they choose, the listener can also engage with the action, helping to shape the play as it unfolds."
- Hindustan Times

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The idea for this performance was born out of co-director Akshay's and my fascination with the good old days of the telephone, wherein voice calling preceded text messages and video calls. Today, we only have transactional, service calls on the phone – food delivery, life insurance, customer care etc. There is something fascinating about hearing the voice of a stranger, trying to connect with you over something utterly mundane like a parcel delivery, and we wanted to explore how that conversation could be theatrical. That’s where the ‘Lifeline’ comes from, an absurd telephone line where humans connect with each other over something crucial to their lives. The ‘99 99’ comes from the social, cultural and economic significance of the number in our lives – from the psychological trick of having prices end in 99 instead of whole numbers to the 99% loading on our computer screens – there is something, one thing, missing from all of our lives at the moment. It can be a person, a desire, a success, a relationship or anything else that we perceive will complete us. The project is currently available to audiences in India and we're planning for an international run in June 2021.

Cast & Crew

Presented by Kaivalya Plays
Directed and Designed by Akshay Raheja and Gaurav Singh.
Performed by Kumar Abhimanyu, Nikie Bareja, Ramita Menon, Raghav Seth and Gaurav Singh.
Writing by Akshay Raheja, devised by ensemble.
Technical Production by Gaurav Singh.
Production Management by Stuti Kanoongo.

Presented by Kaivalya Plays, an Indian performing arts and production company known for their work in spontaneous improvisation, adaptation of foreign language texts and innovative theatrical experiences. Supported by Thespo's Audio-Torium program for emerging theatre-makers to create audio drama projects.

Project Overview & Response

Premiere: 20th February 2021
No. of Shows: 120 one-on-one shows (first run)
Running Length: 30-75 Minutes

Learn more about upcoming shows at bit.ly/lifeline9999

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