Performer Anand Rajaram was granted permission by author Rohinton Mistry to adapt his short novella The Scream to be performed at this year’s SummerWorks Festival. The results–especially if you are someone unfamiliar with the piece like me–are jarring, disconcerting and yet still charming.
Rajaram begins his performance with his back facing the audience. His set is a painted corner of a living room with rather uncomfortable wallpaper. The harsh lighting shining upon him, shifting in colours, is equally uncomfortable, as is the strange music playing throughout. Rajaram himself is dressed to fade into his background, and when he turns around, he reveals that he’s been painted green to, I guess, blend in with the lighting.
When he speaks, the story he tells is from an elderly Indian man. Hearing his tale is like listening to a grandfather talk about life in the Old Country, life in the better days when he was younger and life was simpler and he was considered quite a fox. Except the life at the center of The Scream is not that simple. This life is fraught with paranoia; a perceived notion that everyone from family to the world outside his window are dead set determined to bring him down.
The performance includes a talk-back post show and though I normally avoid talk-backs for a show I’m reviewing, I stayed for a bit of this one in order to get some more context on his performance. I was surprised to hear that the accent Rajaram used during his performance was put on, as it was quite spot on. I had also wondered previously if The Scream in the title here had anything to do with The Scream by Edvard Munch, which was painted in 1893. He mentioned that yes, Mistry’s novella is based on this, and the idea that it’s not the figure in the painting that’s screaming, but the world around him; he is merely trying to shut the screams out. Rajaram’s interpretation of this writing was to turn the concept on its head and have the man scream out at the world around him.
And as fractured as it feels when first watching The Scream, it does work if you, as an audience member, are willing to follow the narrator’s experiences. Don’t question, just follow along. It’s like an abstract surrealist painting in motion, leading you down the rabbit hole.
Saturday August 10th 10:15 pm – 11:15 pm
Tuesday August 13th 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Thursday August 15th 7:45 pm – 8:45 pm
Friday August 16th 9:30 pm – 10:30 pm
Sunday August 18th 8:15 pm – 9:15 pm