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  • Anushka Ghose

Of Blackouts & Believers

Anushka Ghose is "the social media person" at QTP who also looks at all things copy. She writes at work and spends her time off work thinking about what to write next.

September 2nd 2009, a sudden power outage enveloped all of Janki Kutir, including Prithvi Theatre, in a complete blackout. A matter of inconvenience, yes, but perhaps one that wouldn’t warrant much anxiety had a show not been in progress. The play in question? Le Chayim Production’s Confessions.

The performers are in the middle of a heated exchange, when suddenly, the lights go out. The play is in its very last scene - an ongoing interrogation between Katurian K Katurian (Divyang Thakkar), an author being investigated for the bizarre set of murders that seemed to replicate the ones described in his stories, and Tupolski (Kashin Shetty), one of the two inspector-detectives involved in the case. A thriller, packed with dark humour, now also shrouded in darkness.  What happens then? 

At first there is silence. The performers freeze. As their eyes adjust to the darkness, a few realisations set in; this isn’t an accidental blackout. Who knows when the electricity will return. But, even if the audience can’t see us they can most definitely hear us. A fourth and crucial one follows: The show must go on.“Should we proceed, Inspector”, Katurian K Katurian inquires. Tupolski’s gives him a nod of approval and with that, hidden from the sight lines, the two get on with their lines.

Then something unexpected happens. Someone in the audience pulls out a phone and switches on their torch. Another hand follows, and then another one, within a couple of minutes, the stage seems to come alive with the incandescence of these fist-sized devices.

The backstage team too, in the meantime begins bustling with energy and adrenaline. The ones who are accustomed to working in the shadows know that they have to do what they do best - find a solution, and they get right to it, gauging the situation, understanding the source of the issue, fishing out torches. The staff at the venue steps in, lamps and candles in hand.

It was a moment like no other. Because while it did highlight that theatre audiences are a community of generous spectators and that performers and crew are resilient in the face of obstacles, it also reinforced that in the live performing arts space, we are prompted to act in support of one another.

Theatre is a shared experience, even the watching of it. You go in together, laugh, cry, share in the joy or the disappointments of the characters before you and the audience beside you.  And somewhere, that human connection drives us to want the best for the show, to believe in it and in each other.

A lot of time has passed since that night at Prithvi, 15 years to be precise. Lifestyles are faster, venues have mushroomed, phones are smarter. And yet, the nature of theatre goers remains unchanged. In May 2023 during a run of QTP’s Every Brilliant Things at Agatsu Foundation, when a similar situation presented itself, in an intimate setting, during this one-man performance in the round, the lights went out and phones came out, torches casting their glow. 

The show went on.


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