I must admit, I have a soft spot for the outstanding productions that have been delivered by the Eastern Thespians over the years. This contemporary theatre group draws on the rich resources of both eastern and western life, thought, philosophy and art forms and are committed to presenting theatre that is vital, thought provoking and engaging. True to their ethos, each production has certainly raised the bar and positively enhanced the Season Bangla Drama fringe theatre festival in a number of ways.
A couple of years ago, I wrote about a play they had contributed to the festival programme. One that revolved around family bonds, time and the tests that come over the course of life. I remember holding back my tears and feeling every word uttered, every moment of pain and joy captured and every unexpected turn of events beautifully delivered on stage. Inevitably, my expectations were high (rightfully so) when I went to see their new production ‘Footfall’ which opened at the Rich Mix London on Friday night.
Set in 2015 in a non-specified country in Southeast Asia, Footfall explores the ethics of a consumerism led, market-driven world where profit is valued over human life. Issues related to production in the world of multinational companies engaged in global trading, particularly its much debated aspect of the reasons for the continuing plight of the poor workers that has recently come to international notice following a series of industrial accidents are key themes running through the play. Laced with black comedy, Footfall follows the aftermath of an accidental fire that destroys a shoe factory resulting in the death of over five hundred workers, including women and children. In the socio-political uproar that follows, four important players in the game emerge: a small time political strongman whose factory has burnt down and who is now on the run to escape the law, his erstwhile godfather who is a senior agent of a multinational company, the rich businessman who gave the sub-contract, and an ambitious senior politician.
The stage was simply dressed. A handful of chairs, a drinks caddy, coffee table and black and white illustrated backgrounds depicted on the projector. This did not change much as the play was largely based on conversations taking place in a couple of rooms in different homes.
The production focused on the conversations between the four characters. I liked the pace in which the dialogue was delivered. The comedic timing was superb and the language colourful. There were many double entendres lacing the dialogue which I thoroughly enjoyed. The relationship between Inayat and Shah was something I was very amused by and appreciated. Inayat reminded me of Iago from Shakespeare’s Othello. Shrewd in character and often behind the ensuing capitulation in the play. He was a real delight of a character to watch as the play developed. These conversations of insatiable greed, joy and celebration in new business opportunities very quickly transformed into denial, fear, concern and calculation. I found it very insightful to be able to see the emotions of those behind the deaths of so many innocent factory workers. To see their anguish, and fear and also the way in which they are quick to blame others and avoid taking responsibility for their unforgivable actions. These emotions were brilliantly captured throughout the play and gave us both as an audience and concerned global citizens, an opportunity to enter the manipulative and also often insecure minds of those at fault.
The play ended with a few surprises and further confirmed our initial opinions of those who place money and power over human rights and honesty. Without being a spoiler, I can only say that we were certainly not expecting the turn of events that were portrayed in the end of the play. And that is exactly what I love about this creative company - their ability to write and deliver in a way that makes us believe we are witnessing the truth in front of us, and keeping us on our toes as the story unfolds. That raw sincerity is not easy to capture and convey and for that I applaud the entire team at the Eastern Thespians.
Footfall in every way is a promising, powerful and relevant production. Reminding us once again of the callous individuals in our world today, who, for the sake of money and personal growth, will even pull the wool over their closest companions.
I wish the team all the best in their tour of Footfall and look forward to their future productions.
Rahima Begum, Theatre critic
Uttoradhikaar - The Inheritance
Mook - The Unspoken
Very well laid out play, brilliant performance and direction
Artho - The Meaning of Wealth
I watched a play which is probably one of the best theatrical performances I have seen in many years. And that is an understatement. Debasish Banerjee, threw everything out of the box, stripped it to its bare skeleton and filled it with some of the most captivating and poignant dialogue and message ... This play was simply beautiful. A substance packed two hours of complete and utter indulgence into what i felt was art as it should be, simple, beautiful, meaningful, relatable, and most of all, powerfully necessary in our world today. I wish this play could be delivered in every theatre up and down this country just so they could see and appreciate it.
Prasun Sonwalkar of Hindustan Times writes about Eastern thespians...