Anita Majumdar brings her one-woman theatre-dance show Fish Eyes to the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto
Anita Majumdar’s one-woman show, Fish Eyes, has been on my radar for a whole decade. A friend of mine saw the premiere back in 2005 and I still recall her enthusiasm for it. I finally had the opportunity to see it myself at the Aga Khan Museum where it is playing this weekend as part of its Canadian tour.
Majumdar has written, choreographed and performs this dance-theatre show. She tells the story of Meena, a teenager trained in classical Indian dance who just wants to fit in to cool high school society. Being seventeen, she desperately wants to let her teenage hormones run rampant, but her “Auntie” expects her to take part in a dance competition back in India… just when poor Meena thinks she has a shot with her heartthrob obsession, Buddy.
Now, Meena hasn’t been forced into this cultural tradition. Despite her frequent mocking and occasional indignation, she is genuinely proud of her dancing as both a personal skill and a cultural identity. The problem is: she’s resentful of how it interferes with her fantasy of teenage popularity.
Mujumdar is a graceful and efficient performer. The dancing is stunning and her characters are vivid; they pop in and out as Meena struggles with growing up torn between two cultures. For me, the most resonant was her dance instructor, “Auntie.” Superficially, she’s crass and judgmental, making snide comments about people’s clothing and behaviour, but that’s only the surface. Inside: she’s challenging, she’s affectionate, and she knows how to let the young women in her charge discover who they are on their own terms (without them even realizing it). I was moved by how bravely she’s forged strength from heartache and disappointment.
Mujumdar’s least compelling character is that of Buddy, the young jock that is the object of Meena’s youthful romantic fantasies. Right off the bat, I pretty much knew how that storyline would end, but I could still relate to her obsession up until she let him talk. When he opens his mouth, he sounds like a cartoon surfer dude who can’t manage much more than “yeah” and “whoa.” It’s supposed to be funny, but I wished he had had a little more going on so that I could find him somewhat endearing. Her admiration is supposed to be misspent, but he needed to have… something.
There are some one-person shows that feel very off-the-cuff, where it seems like the performer has taken you—personally—into their confidence to spill their guts all over you. This isn’t that type of performance. While Majumdar is convincing, her delivery feels more crafted and not as intimate as I was expecting.
Regarding the above, please bear in mind: I’m not big on one-person shows. I won’t bore you with my specific beefs with the format, but I will tell you this: I am very particular about delivery so I rarely rave about such performances.
Fish Eyes is polished and entertaining. It’s funny and poignant in all the right places. It never feels weighted down as it tackles relevant ideas about cultural appropriation, standards of beauty, and self worth.
- Fish Eyes plays on February 20 and 21, 2015 at the Aga Khan Museum (77 Wynford Drive).
- Shows are at 8PM.
- Tickets are $35, $31.50 for members, and limited rush seating for $20
- Tickets can be purchased through the website
Photo of Anita Majumdar by Andrew Alexander