(This article first appeared in the Mumbai Mirror)
Butter and Mashed Banana, which was presented at the Prithvi Festival on the 14th of November, is playwright and director Ajay Krishnan’s debut play. It does not fall within the conservative genre of a well-made play. There is no conventional beginning middle or end. In fact there is no story in the conventional sense either, even though the narrative is in the form of story telling. As might be evident by now, it is easier to define the play by what it is not. In the words of the people involved with it, the best way to describe it might be “three actors goofing around on stage for 55 minutes.” But even without any real characters, dramatic action and moments of emotional or philosophical truth, the play turns out to be highly entertaining and provocative, taking digs at ideology, censorship and politics. It is blocked with minimal non-naturalistic, choreographed moves. The stage is bare and the only prop used is the traditional half curtain reminiscent of ancient Sanskrit theatre. It is illuminated by general lighting without much use of well defined areas or moods. While the simplicity of the stagecraft might be refreshing it is also amateurish. The music is live and songs go a great length in brining the humour and spirit of the play alive. Most of what the play has to say about censorship and democratic freedoms has been heard over and over and it is almost always skimming the surface of these issues. But what prevents it from degenerating into a cliché is the playwright’s unique perspective on the issues which gives it the feel of a reactionary, passionate outcry of the youth. His brand of humour is ironic, dark, witty, intelligent but never forced or overbearing and he uses it extensively to underscore his critique of the system. It is a spirited and confident production in deed, never mincing words or subscribing to the norms of practiced formats. But in the end its most endearing quality is its fearless and mellifluous honesty.