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Theatre > Review
Midnight Hotel
04 January, 2020

The play, by Srikumar Verma, made a casual beginning at “Midnight Hotel” in Pondicherry, with Usha the widow of the slain Deep having to face an unwelcome guest Hari. But Hari, who is actually Deep’s brother has his undying passion for Usha (he too had pined for her) and feels it’s his duty to come back “home” only to find that the home has been converted into a Hotel. He therefore discovers that he has a double purpose, one Usha and two the Hotel itself. Hari reveals that he was into the risk and security business and is broke now. This hotel is not particularly doing well with many of those boarding being actually non-paying guests.

One of the over-stayers is Vyas the known-writer, who is yet to publish his first book. And his hotel dues would be paid when he hits the jackpot through his works. To add a bit of humour there is the family butler Ronnie, a left-over Frenchman who by nature puts the apostrophe all at the wrong places while speaking, a kind of lisping too, typical butler-English, stuttering and delivers dialogues with all its seriousness but still evokes laughter in his manner of talking. He has another quality of peeping through key-holes gathering secrets about those staying at the hotel. He is concerned about the entry of Hari on the scene and Hari too targets Roonie at the drop of a hat. Vidya is another character shown to be doing internet-business, whose true nature surfaces when she gets into hobnob with Hari during a midnight meeting.

The deceased Deep now taking the form of the ghost revisits each one of the characters which at once provides the actors on stage to display their histrionic talent presenting their own perspective/dimension of events as conceived by the playwright and each takes his/her turn to narrate and enact their moments of truth in life. The ghost eggs them into recalling their memory and as they do so their real character with their own views of many things related to the play is brought forth openly.  Deep, the ghost “intervenes” almost at the end of each act, guiding us through the play and thus giving its “performance.” This forms an indirect commentary that puts the story in its proper context. In a word this is a whodunit and its investigation that draws the blame-game from each one of the characters. Each scene had its own crescendo points well-utilized by the actors and the director.

We were told that this play had been staged in 2009. Veteran Mithran Devanesan had directed it then. The present director Victor Paulraj announced that he was dedicating this to Mithran Devanesan, his mentor. This was the debut directorial attempt of the present director. With seasoned actors at his disposal  he must have had an easy time but can take credit for the seamless change of scenes, the planning of disaster-scenes on stage which are made to happen in the most unobtrusive manner, properly conceptualizing and timing of the “performance” of the apparition. This is essentially a single-set play that is dialogue oriented. The set was perhaps the simplest with the reception counter alone sufficing enough to indicate that it was a hotel. The rest was in the hands of the characters.  The cast had P.C. Ramakrishna, Denver Anthony Nicholas, Balaji K. Moorthy, Deepa Nambiar, Shakthi and Manoj Menon.

This is certainly one more feather in the cap of Madras Players’ hat and was staged at Museum Theatre on 22nd November, 2019.

s.sivakumar

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