Requiem for Dead Sisters: Theatre that forces soul-searching

SHILLONG: A 40-minute theatre performance titled, ‘Requiem for Dead Sisters’ featuring theatre artistes Lapdiang Syiem and Rozumari Samsara (formerly Rosemary Kikon) at San-ker on Saturday was a brutal assault on the complacency that afflicts society today.
Rozumari and Lapdiang both brought out the impunity with which girls and women are regularly killed and brutalised by their partners/boyfriends/husbands and how such deaths become just one more news item even while life goes on.
In the background, Dolly Kikon narrates the news reports related to such murders from various newspapers across the country, while Rozumari picks up one flower at a time, each flower representing a dead sister.
She grieves at the death of the sisters and agonises over each one with tears in her eyes, while Lapdiang tap dances on a 2×2 feet plank to remind the audience yet again of the violence that visited each of the sisters and the their tormented last moments while the life drained out of them.
Rozumari and Lapdiang later answered several queries about the technique used and the idea that prompted the two theatre performers to come together.
They met at the Commedia School of Drama, Copenhagen, Denmark and decided to pay their respects to the dead sisters through this performance.
Rozumari who now lives and works in the US says she has worked with organisations that look at war torn areas of the world and seen death from very close quarters, hence she feels the pain and agony of death.
“ I have lived for a while in Japan and am influenced by the Butoh dance form developed by Kazuo Ohno. However, I try and imbibe different theatre forms and expressions from every country I visit,” says Rosemary.
In Saturday’s play, Rozumari applies the rotoh performance technique which is a  concoction Butoh ritual theatre story-telling and performance art spiced up with the energetically rhythmic movements of Lapdiang’s feet in the tap dance.
Lapdiang Syiem is a graduate of the National School of Drama and later won a scholarship to study at the Commedia School, Denmark. She has performed in several countries and has staged performances in her home state of Meghalaya, constructed around the Khasi folklores.
The play was preceded by a panel discussion on ‘Engendering human rights: Violations and Impunity.’
Lahun Dashisha Rumnong, a TISS scholar moderated the panel discussion, which had Mary Therese Kurkalang, reliving yet again the horrors she had gone through as a child and how she found courage to go public with her story. Mary rued the lack of empathy and sensitivity of media persons who bombarded her with the clichéd question – What next?
Also on the panel were Bertha Dkhar, of Bethany Society, Shannon Massar and  Dr Dolly Kikon currently with University of Melbourne. Bertha who is blind, said, “Most people think those who are blind and deaf have sixth sense and can sense trouble but that is wrong. Sixth sense is not there.”
Dolly Kikon, called on the audience to re-examine the concept of society, family, love and justice. “Love is all screwed up otherwise how does violence happen within a family between wife and husband and even between siblings?” queried Dolly. She pointed to three principle elements that need attention – love, justice and gender violence.
A receptive audience responded with equal fervour to the discussion followed by the play.

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