Review: Unspoken: A Thespian Production

On the sixth of April, the Thespian Society of NIT Trichy raised the curtains for their annual main play, at the EEE auditorium. For the first time the Thespian Society staged a fully original script, written by Shashank (Third year Civil engineering) and Sneha Menon (Fifth year Architecture).  The one hour play was spiced with half a dozen songs written and performed by the actors.

At 5.30 pm, the auditorium opened up to audience, and one could see the panic and frenzy alive within the actors and production contributors as they ran around all over the stage and green rooms ensuring everything was in place. The stage was set with a mesmerizing blue background and artwork never before seen on stage. A giant hourglass that stood downstate right added more suspense to how the play would unravel. The actors wore very plain costumes, a stark and pleasant contrast to the previous editions of Main play which were more oriented to old school British clothing. A simple white table stood at stage centre. The lights dimmed and the play was set to start at 6 pm.

THE CONCEPT:

The overall concept of the play: ‘Unspoken words’ being delivered on stage – is genius. The interweaving of music and songs to the scenes added a new dimension to the play, and a much needed change with respect to The Thespian Society. Simpler costumes and a complex background set up brought with it a certain sense of mystery that was carried through the play. In other words: Great concept.

THE SCRIPT:

While the effort put in to write an original script is commendable, it should also be noted that the scenes played were not altogether new. Clichéd comments and oft repeated innuendos sparked the scenes, and the audience reacted suitably- choosing to not laugh at the common and expected jokes while applauding and laughing out for new lines. For example, the answer to “What do you want to become when you grow up?” was asked to a group of kindergarten students, to which one kid says, “I want to be an aeroplane”, a very well timed and funny reply that brought the audience to smile and clap.

When the play started, it had a promise that was lost somewhat by the time college scenes were reached. The jokes were strained, and it was disheartening to see the ‘Sharmaji Ki Beti’ scene again. The script as such could be reworked on to be newer and fresher, to avoid the clichés of NITT Bench scenes, and Tamil-cinema-type-love-failure-hero-drinks-and-ruins-life scenes. (You may argue saying these scenes depict life of an average guy, but they still are over used). The ending of the play itself, hit too soon, and seemed out of place when checked against the mood set by the rest of the drama.

THE MUSIC:

There were 6 songs that featured in the hour long play- varying between 75 to 120 seconds. The songs all had a good peppy tune to it, and the actors did justice to the songs- surprising the spectators with their musical abilities. Most of the songs had a rhythm that kept audience nodding along. Background score through the play was pleasant, and the beat- well, we just couldn’t stop the beat.  

THE PRODUCTION:

The Thespian Production Department outdid themselves, putting up a stunning display. The blue background on stage was a feast for the eyes, and every item on stage seemed to be made from scratch- a feat that cannot be overlooked. On the negative side, some items such as the fake apple laptops lacked the professionalism earlier seen with Thespians, and the purpose of using an hourglass shape for the ‘Unspoken’ ball drop cue was never clear. However, the production department shone out through the play, with different pieces falling together to perfection and painting a beautiful picture on stage.

THE ACTORS AND ACTING:

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Due to the sheer number of people on stage, their individual talent for acting never quite stood out. Most actors had repetitive emotions written in the script, never quite allowing them to explore the others. Scenes when adults portrayed children grew very tedious, with fake crying and loud acting that made the show quite unprofessional. Some actors such as Kshitij (Second year mechanical engineering) and Sai Raghav (Second year mechanical) managed to hold their own on stage and their acting was just ‘Fainneee’.

THE DIRECTION:

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The problems with the script were compensated for by the very smart direction. The direction portrayed creativity, bringing in new elements such as the ‘tie’ to convert one into the inner voice, using voices to deliver the reception of text messages and so on. The hospital scene- when the actors paused and played their humming was especially brilliant.

OVERALL:

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Unspoken unravelled a brand new venture of the Thespians’ society, and a bold one at that. A number of challenges still exist with respect to the play and the production is yet to be perfected, but it was a daring step and the journey towards a very different style of theatre has started.

REVIEW 2:

Thespian Annual Play – Unspoken

Words exude power. The sheer weight of spoken syllables can at times, deal more damage than any dagger. Words have the capacity to start wars, to condemn, to forgive and to comfort. But perhaps, it was the things that we left unsaid – the silence that replaced our honest feelings – that exerted the greatest influence over our collective destinies.

‘Unspoken’ attempts to explain this very idea, and does so in a manner that can be described as innovative and pragmatic. In particular, the use of the scarves to designate the actors playing the ‘inner voices’ of the various characters was quite clever. The large hourglass on stage right, into which the characters would toss small balls – one each to represent a moment in time when we stayed silent instead of speaking up – was a powerful visual.

As evinced by the performance, a great deal of effort and practice had gone into the production of the play. There was really no point during the nearly hour-and-a-half runtime when the cast looked uncomfortable on the stage. While the premise of the play was very intriguing, the overall plot perhaps a little too safe and familiar. It was essentially a sequence of flashes and excerpts from a typical person’s life – which, ultimately was what it was – a tad too typical.

Possibly, it was intentional, as a part of the play’s initial promise to help the audience ‘relate’ to the characters on stage.

It has to be noted that this was the first ever musical performed by the Thespian Society. And they pulled off that aspect of the performance with aplomb. The musical sequences were very well planned, with characters moving around the stage with ease, despite the lack of space on the EEE auditorium. The delivery and timing of the song lines, with strong chorus’ supporting the solos was impressing. And the background score deserves a great deal of credit for adding an extra dimension for the audience to feel the rhythm of the play.

The props were fantastic, and it was interesting to see the dynamic relationship they had with the performers. The actors constantly interacted with them to reveal the ultimate message of the play.

But what was that exactly? It started well enough, as our characters grew up on stage and progressed through primary school. Later, as it talked about careers, and the crushing weight of familial pressure on Indian children to pursue ‘safe’ and ‘earning’ jobs such as engineering, there were few inside the auditorium who couldn’t relate. But the subsequent scenes, such as the failure of love and the turn to vices such as drinking felt a little too contrived and clichéd.

The final act was perhaps too ambitious as it tried to take on more that it could handle. The transition towards becoming a play that conveyed a social message was somewhat clunky and sudden. However, it was an honest attempt to try to incorporate an additional element to the play.

All said, it was still one of the best performances put up by Thespian. The execution of a challenging genre such as a musical isn’t easy. But for one night, these guys made it seem so. 

Other short reviews:

” ‘Unspoken’ was quite different from other plays by the Thespian’s Society. The idea of putting up a musical on stage was amazing, and I personally loved how they managed to include humour while disseminating an important message to the audience as well. The stage set and props were absolutely mind blowing. Considering it was an original script as well, the Thespians’ Society really raised the bar to a whole new level. Can’t wait to see what they put up in the years to come”.

“The props used were super nice, specifically the backdrop. The story line was too clichéd but apart from that, it was a nice play”.

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