The significance of props on stage

Loosely described as, “objects used by the actor and those that are placed on stage” props are considered important as long as they serve on the stage.  After the show is over very little attention is given over them and they are loosely packed and kept until further usage.  How many of us have wondered about its deeper significance?  Do we even for one look closely at “ the skull held by Hamlet” or the “ crystal glass unicorn held by Laura” in Glass Menagerie?  Even once does the director care to explain to the actor for him/her to closely touch and feel the object as not only a part of the text but also beyond the whole text.  It should provide a moment of heightened emotion not only for the actor themselves but also for the audience.  Every object is to be placed by the set designer and the director with great fortitude and understanding.

The Natyasastra states that Natya was created to meet the demand of a plaything, it’s a “ Krida” (a source of pleasure and diversion to boredoms, wants the miseries of daily existence).   Therefore an art form can induce a temporary state of diversion of one’s immediate sorrow and an escape into a world of pleasure and happiness. Nataka or drama can do this more efficiently than other art form, because unlike other arts, it is both drisya and sravya, it has visual and aural appeal. It can satisfy us by graceful or spetacular senses presented on the stage, can gratify our ear or heart.  This is efficient only through props that makes the experience of the audience go beyond his reality.

Andrew Sofer, in his book, “ The Stage life of Props” says that, “ the object must be seen as having a sign.” The stage props hence has a strong presence, sometimes as strong as the actor themselves.  As Felix Bossonnet sees the props they are much more than the physical presence they hold.  Props have to be read between the complex relationship between the actor the text and the audience.  It provides a complete whole experience of transmission of the audience into the world of the “ play or krida”.  As Sofer sees the distinctions between the props and the characters should become more and more blurred, it should be amalgamated as one whole.  The responsibility of this hence is not just within the text but by the directors as well as the actors.

William Shakespeare’s ENCRYPTION (HAMLET) Director: Susheel Kant Mishra

Playwright: William Shakespeare
Dramaturgy: Vishala Ramachandra Mahale
Director: Susheel Kant Mishra
Group: NSD Students’ Diploma Production, New Delhi
Language: Hindi
Duration: 1 hr

The Play
Encryption is based on William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It is an attempt to weave a parallel narrative which represents the present day. At the centre of this narrative is a person who is troubled by the ever increasing absurdity and contradictions of the society. Indecisive –‘To be or not to be’ (Hamlet) and the inference of a person from the present time, in varying situations are juxtaposed; do they match? Duration of the events in this play is one day. Two coffin makers/gravediggers are making another coffin. Along with the narrative of Hamlet, a coffin is being constructed. The coffin which is being constructed is waiting for a corpse. Completion of the coffin, hence awaiting death, is the circle that brings an end to the performance.

Director’s Note
My association with the characters of the play Hamlet goes back to my initial days in theatre. The conflict, not being able to decide, and drifting between being and non-being becomes the destiny of Hamlet. Even today, I observe similar situations around me. By introducing the character, I intend to address the links of such situations. As a student of Theatre Technique and Design I started to work with fellow performers, and our explorations began with sources from space, scale, texture and colour. During this process, performers experimented various ways of expressing, which in turn developed into a body of performers and designers, working in tandem. Along with this, through installations, we tried to explore sexuality, sense of loss etc.

The Director
Susheel belongs to Satna, Madhya Pradesh. As a member of Rang Vidushak, he participated in various national and international theatre festivals. He did a one-year certificate course from National School of Drama, Sikkim Theatre Training Centre. He has worked as a guest artist/designer/visiting faculty at Madhya Pradesh School of Drama, where he has conducted stage-craft classes. He has designed sets for plays directed by NSD Direction Students and Santanu Bose. Susheel has designed property and head-gears for the play Skandgupt directed by Alok Chatterjee. He has directed Pagla Ghoda, Bhasa’s Urubhangam and Panchhi Aise Aate Hain.

Vishala Ramachandra Mahale, graduated from NSD in 2014 with specialization in Theatre Techniques and Design. He has written many plays including ​Inquilaab Zindaabad, Pratiksha, MKD, Nidaan, Dot Dash Dream Delusion, Inertia.303, 01:12:58 (A play based on Lakshman Purbathe Massacre), Incision 66M, Mad Man’s Diary (based on a story by Lu Xun), Jehanara (A play based on a Novel by Lyane Guillaume) to name a few. He has translated and developed performance texts Roti (based on a Kannada story by P. Lankesh),​ Tarr Aaya/Tarr Arrives (based on a Kannada story by Devanuru Mahadeva); adapted Dr. Faustus, Titus Andronicus, Peer Gynt, A Vacant Lot (based on a play by Ota Shogo), Hamlet Machine (based on Heiner Muller’s play), A Doll’s House Story, ​Infinite (based on Proof by David Auburn). He has co-scripted short films February 29, Yeduretu; feature length films Spaces for Rent… and Kaggantu in Kannada. Currently Vishala is working as a freelance designer, playwright, dramaturge, and director.

Cast & Credits
On Stage: Sanjeev Gupta, Rachana Gupta, Sarfaraz Ali Mirza, ShalucYadav, Debashree Chakraborty, Indira Tiwari,
Bhagyashree Tarke, Bulkic Kalita, Melody Dorcus, Param Badhania, Jayanta Rabha, Guneet Singh, Parag Baruah, Punsilemba Meitei, Ravi Chahar, Rakesh Kumar, Rahul Kumar

Assistance in Light: Kiran Kumar
Assistance in Set: Shyam Kumar Sahni
Make-up: Parag Baruah, Rachna Gupta
Sound/Music: Santosh Kumar (Sandy)
Sound Operation: Melody Dorcas, Ajay Khatri
Video & Operation: Ujjwal Kumar
Video Execution: Pranshu Chowdhary, Nitin Kumar
Installation & Exhibition: Maneesh Pachairu, Dillip Majhi, Pooja Dange
Assistance in Installation & Exhibition: Ankur, Melody Dorcus, Tushar Karan, Shohaib Tyagi, Akki Kumar, Akash Srivastav, Hemant Raj Konwar, Kavita Yadav, Chaman, Ashish Kumar Nayak, Nirutpol Mohan, Kamal Anand, Shamsher Ahmed
Choreography: Vikram Mohan
Poster & Brochure: Ujjwal Kumar
Production Controller: Mahadev Singh Lakhawat

Playwright: William Shakespeare
Dramaturge: Vishala R. Mahale
Concept, Design & Direction: Susheel Kant Mishra