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Theatre > Review
Making it a Habit - Play
14 February, 2020

These Nuns could have fun

If you had thought that Nuns were staid creatures given only to seriousness and Godliness, you will perforce change your mind after watching “Making It A Habit.” Even the “deeply revered” reverend mother (Deepa Nambiar) was no exception. She wouldn’t want to lose her chance to enjoy the fun and frolic (of acting) as she, consumes some strange stuff furtively, gets to dizzy heights and behaves in the strangest manner, unbecoming of the Mother she is. Commonplace acting to some perhaps, but imagine that “the mother” is the one who does this “act”. She was able to lend enough weight to make it count. A transformation! There is another role she played, that of a compere (the kattiyangaran of therukoothu), an act of familiarizing the play to the audience every now then, in case they have been less attentive. Hubert the second-in-command enters into skirmishes with her. But reverend mother takes the power route asserting her might.

There isn’t much of a story line, even a kind of non-linear at that, but each Nun has an interesting story to narrate taking centre-stage to showcase their acting prowess. That keeps you at the edge of your seat albeit making the play predictable. There are however, no startling sudden incidents, none of those turns and twists. Songs are of course in plenty, about a dozen or more (wasn’t it floated as “a musical”?). All credits are due to the music coach, Sangeetha (have I got it right?) who has given all participating nuns enough professional voice-training to get things right. Soprano, soft-voice, heavy-sounding, alignment - all executed with a great deal of perfection.

The play at once reminded one of some kind of serials where you can afford miss one episode or two. It wouldn’t greatly matter. In the very first episode we see a quiz being conducted (open to the audience, of course) where questions are asked on the previous song played. In the next enters a sister with a ventriloquist, hidden to be projected at the very end, asking inconvenient questions at the establishment, and then Hubert gets into the act saying who had named her and releases a wise-crack that goes this way: “Humble shall be exalted and the exalted shall be humbled” . Even the mentally unstable “sister myopia”, her dialogues rendered with an intended hesitation/uncertainty, comes to terms with herself. Her life-before-nunnery, she remembers jumping on her bed, was that she wanted to become a singer, entered a competition and won. Then finally the sisters have made a joint venture, a book full of recipes. They realize that it has not been proof-read (leading to a kind of quarrel between reverend mother and her deputy) resulting in some pages being torn out and discarded. Another” sis” who is prohibited from giving her performance for some reason or the other is at last allowed to do so, grudgingly by mother Superior.

As each act could stand-alone and achieve its crescendo, it appears there isn’t much the director, Yohan Chacko , would want to do. Moreover subject continuity wasn’t a basic necessity.  In fact Yohan was on stage (incognito as director?) during the entire proceedings, under the guise of being in charge of drums as part of the music troupe. All the same this requires to be said: The people cast in the roles needed multiple talents viz. acting, singing and dancing and each one had to internalize the fact that they were primarily sisters/mothers too. Yohan has done a great job in choosing these few who have fitted well in the multiple roles they were required to don.

This play again adopted a single-set concept that nevertheless provided all the nuns adequate space to move around. In quite a few scenes all nuns in all their glory were on stage.  It came as a great surprise as the nuns themselves received the audience as they made their entry in the drama hall. You knew them even before they could make you realize what they were capable of! Again there was no distinguishable costume variation and if each one of the Nuns stood out it was by the sheer strength of performance. Yes, the acting from the whole crew was palpably real.

One wonders how this drama would be received at some Catholic institution, a one that is filled with mothers and sisters.

Lighting was kept adequate giving the required focus when necessary. But for the songs-lyrics part, one had the feeling that it could not be heard with clarity. One could not tell what the lyrics were at places and that robbed them of their significance. There was nothing wrong with the singing and this probably was an issue with the audio output.  

The Nuns were played by Deepa Nambiar, Amritha Fredrick, Sumitha Mohan,Sharanya Gopinath, Anu Bhaskararaman, Sruthi Prabhakaran, Mrittika Chattopadyay with the lone male member played by Kiran Thomas. We had Jermaiah Christopher on the piano and Jonathan Titus on the guitar as performing musicians.

An evening that witnessed a bold and imaginative exploration of a new possibility on stage, well-received by a sizeable audience and was greatly a success!

s sivakumar

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