If you are looking to be entertained, this is not the play for you. If you are looking for spectacle, for excitement, for gripping plot twists, this is not the play for you. However, if you look to indulge yourself with a night of reflections, of powerful thoughts and ideas, then this is definitely the play for you. Perhaps one of the most minimalistic plays that you will ever see, Brooks brings out the raw intensity of his production through his honest re-telling of the ending of the Indian epic, The Mahabharata.
Bringing an ancient Sanskrit text to stage, not least the longest epic poem ever written, is a task that would seem daunting and even impossible to most. Not to Peter Brooks. 30 years ago, Brooks did just that, and thankfully for us today he will be touring the world again, this time with an excerpt of the ending from his epic 9-hour play in the form of Battlefield.
Battlefield tells the story of a great war, leaving millions dead. The victor and new king, Yudishtira, laments that ‘victory is a defeat’ as he struggles to reconcile his victory in war and the disaster that it has left in its wake, along with his mother as well as his uncle, the former king and whose sons lay defeated and dead on the battlefield. We are then brought along on a mystical journey with the various characters as they learn to live with the tragedy, one that truly transcends time as it is an occurrence that resonates up till, and especially, in our world today.
The set is extremely simple – the scene is hardly set. The costumes are kept to simple earthy tones, nothing extravagant. Even the acting itself was kept muted. Thism of course, does not mean that the actors were lacking in luster – far from it, in fact. Though there are no grandiose movements, no dramatic tears nor outbursts, the acting was certainly impactful as its genuine simplicity truly begets us to pay attention to the contents of the play. Indeed, this seems to be the goal of Peter Brooks as he strips the production bare in nearly all aspects – all except for the compelling storytelling conveyed through the actors’ raw emotions.
Admittedly, it is not an easy play to grasp. The meanings behind this elusive plot is not one that would be made immediately obvious, and certainly not one that would be easy to extricate. There is no right or wrong, black or white mentality here – perhaps, then, this is the intention of the play after all. It is not here to dictate our morality, rather, it opens up new vantage points of how we may approach such situations, and how we may live with it without submitting ourselves to total anguish and desolation, a concept that rings especially true in our world today. Indeed, as Peter Brooks himself puts it, ‘in the theatre one can live through all that and leave more confident, braver, believing that one can face up to life.’
If you have yet to purchase tickets, I highly encourage you to catch this masterpiece that would definitely leave you reflecting for days on end. Battlefield runs until this Saturday (14th Nov) at the Capitol Theatre, so hurry get your tickets here: http://www.sistic.com.sg/events/battle1115!
Written By: Seewah Ho
Photo Credits: Caroline Moreau