one day in the season of rain – a Backstage Dubai theatre production

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Over the weekend I caught “One Day in the Season of Rain,” the English adaptation of Ashadh Ka Ek Din, a play originally written in Hindi by Indian playwright Mohan Rakesh. This is the most recent production from Backstage Dubai, a local community theatre group that brings together amateur and experienced actors from all ages and backgrounds. I read the play earlier in the year and auditioned for it. I was drawn to the sincerity in the lead character of Mallika but was cast in the production of A Few Good Men as Lieutenant Commander Joanne Galloway.
Although I didn’t get the part of Mallika I was still waiting for the play to come out so I could see the script come to life. It really resonated with me and I wanted to feel Mallika’s earnestness from the stage the way I did in my imagination.

The play follows the lives of two characters enthralled by their humble lives in the verdant Indian countryside. Mallika, a young woman living alone with her seemingly pessimistic mother in a small hut, is at the peak of her youth and filled with vitality. She and the village poet Kalidasa are in love and thrive on the romanticized connection they share with each other and their surroundings, from the scenery to the abundance of wildlife roaming the hills. In the first act the royal family disrupts this carefree world with a visit requesting Kalidasa’s presence in the capital. Mallika sets her own interests aside by urging him to go to Ujjayini. He refuses, unable to choose between by his love for her and the mountains, but she encourages him to see how far his talents can take him. As my friend whispered halfway through the play, this story has been told many times — the conflicted artist leaves his comfort zone and everything changes — the person, the place he or she has left behind and the altered perspective from which they later see everything they’ve left behind. And although yes, this story has been told, there’s a reason it’s been repeated and never gets old. The pressure of making a life-changing decision affects every person, and in One Day in the Season of Rain Kalidasa’s decision affects the fate of all.

Watching the play live revealed more to me than what I first saw in the lines of the script. The production was set in the somewhat charming medical auditorium at Rashid Hospital in Oud Metha, Dubai, which reminded me of my suburban highschool auditoriums and seemed just right for this modest saga. The set’s terracotta walls represented Mallika’s mountain home and with each act it aged and cracked in time with the shadows and wrinkles on the characters faces. Which brings me to makeup and costumes – circumstances were far more believable with these subtle but defining touches. The performance started a little slowly, with actors taking some time to get into character, but as the story took off so did the energy onstage.

Priyanka Johri played the ever emotive Mallika and where she could’ve easily resorted to melodrama she instead stewed internally, looking out into the audience,or rather the Indian countryside, with eyes overflowing with emotions and clasped hands. A first-time actor, she took on Mallika with the innocence and courage that I imagined her having, carefree when nothing else mattered and ashen when all hope was lost. Priyanka brought to the stage an unforeseen timidity that made me sympathize more with her character than when reading it. I had trouble feeling remorse for Kalidasa as he appeared to be just another self-absorbed bloodsucking artist feeding off the youth of his muse. I’m not sure if this was intentional. Standout performances also came from Rafi Yachoua, who played Vilom with a casual air of well-paced manipulation and dry humor, and Jennifer Turkington, who portrayed the lifelong pain of Mallika’s mother Ambhika with terrifying insanity. My friend and I hated Ambhika for how she treated Mallika, so I believe Turkington achieved Ambhika’s objectives.

As we know, it’s one thing to read a book or script and another to watch it performed. Typically a lot is lost when books are adapted to film but I find a live stage performance brings an altogether new meaning to things we read. This is a dismal, beautifully written tale where each character is seen slowly decaying and sinking into desperation. It is as dramatic as it sounds, from the despondence of Mallika’s hopeful monologues to the deteriorating mental state of her mother and Kalidasa’s anguish at losing what he loved most. The lyrical dialogue in One Day in the Season of Rain is what strikes the hardest, and when brought to life it has potential to be very intense. The message of losing love and changing as a result of decisions is clear throughout, but the harshest part is watching each character realize too late that they can’t get back what they gave away to time.

It was difficult for me to find information on this play and I couldn’t find a hard copy in stores here in Dubai. Feel free to email me if you’d like a .pdf copy:)

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3 Comments

  1. Caroline… great review and am glad to see you and your friend enjoyed the play!! Thank you and hope to keep seeing you reviewing theater works in Dubai :)

    G

  2. Kanika Kumar

    What a great review..!

  3. shobha hiremath

    Really missed this one. Would have loved to see Priyankas debut as an actor. Will surely make up in teh coming years.Am sure now she will take off.Thanks for the pdf in advance.

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