While digitization is elastic in the area of urban mind-space today, it has, perhaps, never before restricted our sensibilities to such rigid confines of stereotypical abstractions. It is this dimension of modern technology that C Sharp C Blunt — presented by Germany’s Flinntheater in an Indo-German collaboration — explores against the backdrop of a growing and aspirational entertainment industry in India.
The play opens with the complex idea of a human representation of a consumer-friendly mobile app, which plays with the psyche of a perceived (much familiar) mainstream male clientele. The app involves and engages the user, provoking a proximity that, while virtual, is wrapped in carefully measured physical dimensions including voice flexibility, texture, tone, syntax and body movements.
While the performance also plays with female psyches, as they see themselves mirrored (and parodied) by the app in how they respond to mainstream male culture, it also embeds the discretion of free-will within the finite limits of any system.
Starring singer-actress MD Pallavi in a solo performance, this one-woman show creates a duality between the woman herself and a popular market-oriented app, which acquires a superior position over its users through power dynamics.
While the play focuses on patterns of consumer profiles, market behavior, intelligent strategy, etc., it further explores the ‘realms of digital dramaturgy,’ repetition techniques that create audio-visual hypnotic effects building to a cumulative crescendo with the app technology starting relatively innocent and naïve, and growing to become omnipotent.
A ‘humorous and satirical interrogation of what it is like being a woman in the entertainment industry today,’ the performance is backed by and based on the concept of the loop. An electronica musician, live on stage, creates an audio dimension, which represents the idea of ceaseless repetition in terms of the cultural and social programming that women endure.
Sometimes, the sound creates audio ripples through vicious loops of questions hurled at a young girl who wants to be a singer (…’why are your boobs so big– are you having sex?’…) or at a married professional who comes home late after work. In an interesting digital juggle, the questions and answers overlap and create a throbbing climax, where the woman finally explodes, questioning the questions, aggressively revolting in disgust.
From enacting rape scenes to singing suggestive songs with double meaning, the performance addresses both latent and overt questions about women and their commoditization in the world of entertainment today, which perceives the ‘male’ as its ultimate audience.
Interestingly, the play opens in darkness — twice. The app is ‘created’ out of the darkness by the initial spoken sequences with a spotlight shining in the darkness. It provokes the viewer to think, will the play be the spark of a cultural light and understanding of how technology is affecting us, evolving us, and shaping us?
The second time the play opens, the binary options of the app are mixed with bugs. Is app 606, the evolved version, really a bugged/hacked version? Or, is it a true version?
Finally, it leaves the audience asking, are we living in such a world where we need to hack out of the existing reality?
Directed by Sophia Stepf and winner of the Secondo Festival in Aarau/Switzerland 2014, the performance was recently staged in New Delhi.