Abstract play speaks to youth

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TO NDR I am I Val Adamson ALL SET: Eugene Shezi, left, Gyendra Sooriah, centre, and Paroshen Sooriah.

A DRAMATIC offering exploring true emotions in the individual is set to stage at the iZulu Theatre at Sibaya Casino next week.

I am I is produced by popular radio personality and critic Varshan Sookhun, and written and directed by Gyendra Sooriah.

A press release says the abstract theatre piece combines actuality with entertainment and mixes elements like puppetry, silhouettes, physical theatre and contemporary dance to portray a complex plot.

In an interview, Sooriah said the narrative was based on a young Indian man’s experiences growing up in a conservative South Indian family, and how he triumphs in life’s greatest battles through self-discovery and ambition.

“The idea came along at a time when I felt there was a need to break through the simplistic and traditional theatrical form which Durban audiences have become accustomed to and deliver something unique and inspiring.

“Since my own life story has a considerable share of complexities, I thought it would be a good idea to share it with others.

“I decided on using abstract form to introduce different angles to the story, which will ensure the audience is captivated from start to finish.”

On what he hoped to achieve with the play, Sooriah said: “As a youngster myself, I think it’s important to use the arts to portray positively inspiring and motivational messages to the youth.

“Having studied at Rhodes and led the kind of life most privileged youngsters do, even I experienced a sort of anticlimax when self-realisation occurred at the desperation to mature as a responsible adult.

“Unexpected circumstances made me realise that there is a time and place for everything and nothing should be taken for granted. This play addresses that self-realisation.”

Sooriah hoped young people in the audience would connect with this.

“There are vital aspects of the play that reach out to any parent or older folk.

“The play helps one to understand a youngster better and to find reason in the rebellious or even the conservative nature of an individual before typecasting them.”

Sooriah spoke about his cast and what made each of them perfect for their role, saying: “There are Paroshen Sooriah (his brother) and Eugene Shezi. I cast my brother in a pivotal role, which shows a different aspect of my own life.

“Paroshen brings out humorous elements in his character. This proves to be a winner in breaking the tension.

“Eugene, who starred recently in The Cleansing, was cast at the last minute as another cast member had left for greener pastures. Eugene brings a strong sense of African tradition and culture to the play.

“His conversion from being an inyanga (traditional healer) to the average college student is one of the play’s most endearing attributes.”

I am I was staged in partnership with the Indian Cultural Centre at the Catalina Theatre last month.

“The primary reason for re-staging the production is due to the inconvenient timing of the first run during the festive period. Many people complained about having other engagements or were away on holiday – hence the decision to give Durban audiences another opportunity to see it before we leave on a national tour.

“We are confirming other venues. But Port Elizabeth, Gauteng and Cape Town are definitely on the cards.”

• I am I stages at iZulu Theatre on February 7 and 8 at 8pm. Tickets through the Sibaya box office, 031 568 2979, or Computicket.

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