by Ryan Kerr
“King Kumar” and “Blindy” are Indian orphans whose invented identities and desperately optimistic hope for the future carry them through the rigors of selling tea and polishing boots in a busy train station to survive. As the story unfolds, the innocence of their deeper motivations make the story surprisingly light and genuinely touching despite its grim conditions.
The set was decorated simply, using pieces of corrugated iron suspended on roof-like angles, and with undulations in lighting and background noise to infer the bustle of Howrah Train Station in Kolkata.
There was a cinematic quality to the staging of Roshni which both my date and I found beautiful. The staging and lighting utilized a typically photographic technique called the “rule of thirds” with the action happening in the left or right third of the lit space, rather than the centre.
When Kumar called his uncle in Bombay from a pay booth, it was the phone and not Kumar which was centred. This unique art direction supported the story as well – Kumar’s obsession with Bollywood and the cinema is a recurring theme in the story.
Even with clever technical choices, Roshni was defined by the intensity and richness of both Roy and Abalos’ committed performances. Both characters showed an incredible range of humour and pathos, without the story sagging due to heavy content. Each actor played only one character throughout the entire play – which is to say any interactions with passersby were mimed or directed at the audience.
This focused all the attention on Kumar and Blindy, who never once let their interactions with others look unnatural. This also, at times, slowed the pacing of the piece to a crawl. Waiting for the silent response of an imaginary boot-shine customer, or to the ringing telephone wore thin about halfway through.
Roy and Abalos’ incredible performances illuminate a touching script which tells a story like none I’ve seen before.
– Roshni by Anusree Roy runs until December 11, 2010 at Theatre Passe Muraille
– Performances are Tuesday through Sunday at 8 pm
– Tickets are $30.00 – $35.00 Saturday Matinees – Pay What You Can and are available online, by phone at 416.504.7529, or in person at the box office.