The creative team and cast for 39 steps has been having a ball with the creation, and we decided to investigate whats been happening behind the scenes. We start with our very own Sunil Vishnu aka Shoosha, who talks to us about why Evam decided to perform The 39 steps, and what Chennai should expect this October.
Us : You’re not only acting in ‘39 Steps’, but you also had a major role in selecting the play for Evam to perform. What made you decide on this particular play ?
Shoosh : I had the opportunities to go abroad to the UK and the US, and it was a mind blowing experience, if only to see the standards and the expectations of the world when it comes to first class theater. So, it was a huge eye opener, making me and KK realize what we are missing in India in the theatre scene. Many people wonder why audiences should shell out their cash on a play, when they could easily go and watch a movie instead.
The connectivity that occurs between an audience and the actors on stage is invaluable and cannot be recreated on screen. This was obviously something that I knew, and it was a motivating factor behind the creation of Evam, but it was my trip abroad that really reminded me of the power of theater. Me and KK saw many plays, but ‘39 steps’ was one of the few that really blew us away, and taught us that some plays can not only match cinema, but sometimes exceed it, as a visual spectacle, as an experience. ‘39 steps’ is a unique play, as it essentially brings the cinema experience on stage.
Us : As an actor, what is your perspective on ‘39 steps’?
Shoosh : This is definitely one of the top 2 toughest plays that I have acted in over my 7 year career. I would say only our first professional production, ‘Art’, would come close because of the fact that it was our first play as a company. This particular play has forced me to explore things that I have never done as an actor, so it is a great learning experience. Obviously, the highlight of this play is the fact that 4 actors portray 140 characters. It’s very easy for an audience to be slightly surprised and then come and watch the play. It is only we as actors who know the great difficulty that goes into it. It’s physically exhausting, more so than any sport I can think of. It’s not only the quick changes of costume. As an actor, you know that a simple change of costume does not necessarily mean a new character. Your entire body language must change, you have to become a completely new person, a different character. That’s what I meant when I said it was physically exhausting.
Having said that, it’s highly satisfying at the same time. I’ve seen the original play on Broadway, so I know the quality of the actors, and that serves as an inspiration as well as a source of pressure.
Us : How is it like working with your team?
Shoosh : It’s been amazing. Me, TMK, and Navin have obviously worked together a lot over the past 2 to 3 years, so there’s a certain chemistry that we take for granted. However, it’s been a different experience this time, because of the fact that most of our previous productions have been very character-driven and emotion-driven. A lot of the play’s essence is conveyed through words. Physicality as such was not explored, with maybe the exception of ‘Hamlet’. ‘39 Steps’ relies on physicality, so that added a little twist to our working relationship, so that was great fun.
Us : The original play on Broadway was a huge success obviously. What made you decide that this play would work in Chennai, and have you altered it in any way ?
Shoosh : I felt that the play had universal qualities that would be appreciated regardless of audience, so no, we have not ‘Indianized’ it or modified it substantially from the original. Why this particular play? Me and KK saw many plays which amazed us, but as an audience member, ‘39 steps’ truly connected with me. Also, feasibility was an important issue. Broadway plays are performed in venues which have the latest equipment, and fancy stage accessories which is nowhere near the situation in India. ‘39 Steps’ was an exception to this, because the play does not really depend on the equipment or technological setup of the venue.
Us : You’re bringing this play to Chennai. How do you think they will react?
Shoosh : Well, I think they’ll be suprised. We are not sparing any effort or cost, because with this production, we are consciously raising the bar for theater in India. Chennai is our home turf, so we definitely hope people will appreciate that and come. They should be prepared to be amazed.
And that was SHoosha. Watch this space for the rest of the cast and of course the unveiling of the director! :)