The Auroville Theatre Group’s A fire: The spiritual journey of a nomad, staged at Kalabhumi’s Cripa auditorium in Puducherry is about the impact of war on humanity and people’s quest for hope. The play takes you through the pain and trauma that a family undergoes during World War II. The narrator in the play recalls his childhood, and spending life as a nomad having lost his home. He also talks about how he has managed to keep his spirit alive despite all the trials and tribulations.
The play is based on the French story Un Fu (A Fire) written by Aurovilian Pavitra (Pascal Estrem). It has been adapted to the stage by playwright and director Jill Navarre, who along with Roger Harris and Sukanya Panda has translated the story into English. Set in 1942 France, the powerful narrative ends in Auroville, the township near Puducherry with a French connect. The play traces the journey of the soul through the dark nights of the Holocaust to finding a new life in Auroville.
The play begins on a darkened stage with the sounds of cries and wails with people being beaten up mercilessly. Scared and hapless refugees run helter-skelter. In the atmosphere of confusion and chaos emerges the narrator as a child recalling the past — the Nazi Germany keeping two million French prisoners-of-war, the French police rounding up Jews and political refugees in Nazi concentration camps, and mass murder in Auschwitz.
Audio-visual technique has been used well to bring alive these images. The audience was invited to join the actors on the stage and outside the auditorium, where some of the scenes were enacted. This innovative approach of the director helped the audience understand the theme better.
The language employed is rich in metaphors. The play reiterated the power of art, and the significance of memory in connecting people and eras. The title in a way tells us to keep the fire of hope burning.
Among the cast, Reeshabh Rawat as the narrator stole the show with his diction, emotions and body language. Lalit Khatana’s choreography of the acrobatic movements enhanced the impact of some of the scenes. Sugumar Shanmugam’s light designing was impressive too. However, one did feel the absence of a background score.
Overall, the play was like an emotional catharsis, an inspiring story of hurt and healing.