Commemorating Agatha Christie’s Birth Anniversary Through Play

by September 15, 2018 0 comments

Commemorating Agatha Christie’s Birth Anniversary Through PlayTheatre actress and director Jalabala Vaidya recreated the legendary detective Hercule Poirot to commemorate Agatha Christie’s 128th birth anniversary.

Writer Agatha Christie once said, “I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.” Through her works and words, Christie is still alive in people’s hearts. They’d still vouch that her famous and legendary detective Hercule Poirot can still crack any modern day mystery.

To commemorate the legend’s 128th birth anniversary, with the same enthusiasm and vigour, actress-director Jalabala Vaidya, co-founder of the Akshara National Classical Theatre, recreates one of her most-loved murder mysteries, TheMystery of Three Quarters, as a play.

As the play is all set to be enacted tomorrow at the Akshara Theatre, Vaidya reveals why she chose a Christie legend, “We were in fact asked to enact this story and bring back the legendary Belgian private detective. We have done a lot of dramatised plays in the past which were very successful. Since it was a very well-known mystery, we thought it would be a good idea to pick up one of her stories.”

She adds, “Agatha Christie is practically a publishing juggernaut second only to the Holy Bible. People know her everywhere. She has written a number of detective novels which have interesting twists and turns. Everyone loves a murder mystery. The only problem was that we had very little time to prepare everything since it had to be performed on September 16 to mark the birth anniversary of the writer.”

Recreating the most loved of Christie’s detectives, Hercule Poirot, who is unsurpassed in his intelligence and understanding of the criminal mind, was certainly a task for Vaidya. Actor Suneet Tandon plays the role of the world-renowned Belgian private detective, who is respected and admired by police forces and heads of state across the globe and has been one of the greatest legends of all time, whose character despite his fictional existence is as real as any living being.

Vaidya recreated her own version of the mastermind, who is physically very different from Christie’s. She says, “Poirot is supposed to be a short, rather plump, man, who is five-feet-four inches and wears a moustache. However, Suneet Tandon doesn’t look like that at all. He is tall, not at all plump, doesn’t have a moustache nor does he wear a hat. But I would say that his great acting skills carried him through. This is what made him perfect for the role.”

As the story, set in the early 1930s’ London, unveils, four people are found accused of an old person’s murder although they do not seem to be closely connected to him. They all receive a letter that is apparently signed by Hercule Poirot but which in reality is fraudulent since the detective didn’t put his signature on it. So several questions pop up including why it was sent to the four people? Why was it signed in the name of Hercule Poirot? Who sent it? But that is for the readers, the audience would naturally be curious about how did the cast and crew recreate the old setting on the stage as well as enact these scenes?

Vaidya narrates how designing a stage and dialogues set in the early 1930s was challenging. “First, it is about picking up costumes which were in keeping with the fashion trends of that era. Second, the setting up of certain locations on the stage  itself could be a challenging task. We have to make it look like a dramatisation. It’s like a set where actually people act. There is a dressing room, a cafe, lawyers office and so on. There is a bigger room where eventually Poirot announces how he found the murderer and solved the case. And then most excitingly is a bathtub where the older man drowned.”

So what goes into adapting a written story into a stage performance? Vaidya answers, “A great deal of work. While using the existing text, it is the dialogues between the characters that are the most important. What has been described in the book has to be dramatically visualised. The facts have to be spoken out aloud by the characters for them to reach the audience. The minutest details in the book need to be mentioned when you are watching the play. The dialogues need to be spoken in such a way that the story unfolds. These need to be logical enough for the audience who doesn’t know the story at all. You have to create a mystery on the stage, design the right costumes, background, furniture, prompts and sets. If the story is set in the early 1930s, you need to find such stuff that was prevalent in that era.”

So are there any particular plays or literary playwrights that influence her direction? Vaidya believes that “being in theatre has helped me get better and better day by day. It is not because of films or following any other playwrights religiously. I do like them, but experience is the biggest teacher.”

Vaidya, who is widely known for her one-woman role in Gopal Sharman’s The Ramayana, the play which toured around the world, finds her inspiration from the same concept and in the oneness of being. She says, “In The Ramayana, in which I performed, I realised that there was an understanding of a human as one’s own position in the entire cosmos and the manifestation; everything which you can see till infinity. The epic has a number of characters and I enacted each role from Sita, to Raavan, Ram, Laxman and even Mandodari. I felt that it is important to find the truth and beauty in the relationship with oneself. You could explore yourself to such an extent that there is not limit. Amidst joy and fear, the infinite universe or divinity is supposed to be joyous and awesome as well as frightening. This is where I find my biggest inspirations.”

Writer: Chahak Mittal

Courtesy: The Pioneer

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