- Sarah Saifee, Sushila Birla Girls' School
The play Chalk About is a symphony of music, dance, and raw dialogue that leaves the viewers filled with bewilderment, amusement and awe. This play is not like your typical Romeo-Juliet or Disney musical and while it does have its feel-good moments, it constantly keeps the audience on its feet, trying to figure out what is going on, trying to draw out a number of associations and symbolisms. That is perhaps what is so beautiful about this play - it does not give the viewers what they want. The characters exist in a world of their own and while they constantly interact with that of the audience’s they are here to tell their own story in their own way and it is up to us to understand it. The characters of this play are Christine and Hendrik who talk about their life stories. They take us through all the heartbreak, pain, suffering, the good parts and the bad that they’ve gone through. While Christine narrated her story in English, Hendrik did not feel comfortable doing so. There was an interlude between Christine and Hendrik’s narration following which Hendrik went on an emotional rant about his life, in another language. The audience could not understand what was being said; we could just feel the emotions, read the expressions and understand the pain or the happiness in his voice, which was a beautiful allusion to the fact that sometimes, you don’t need to know what’s going on, you just need to empathize and be there. True to its title, the play and its characters constantly used chalk for different purposes. They outlined their bodies, used it to trace their steps, drew lines and circles to demarcate areas. They drew, erased and redrew, perhaps to show how we create so many different identities for ourselves; how we fit ourselves in a number of such chalk outlines, trying to figure out and label who we are and how it’s okay to constantly erase and redraw as your identity and your concept of self evolve, and you can begin with a clean slate any time you want. The question of identity is a persistent theme throughout the play and is reflected in the segment where Hendrik interacts with the audience asking them to make assumptions about him. ‘Do I look Scottish?’ ‘Do I look married?’, were some of the questions asked. Each time the audience responded with a concrete yes or no despite not knowing a thing about him. This only goes to show how easy it is for people to make judgments and how your identity is not just what you think about yourself, but is subject to other people’s perceptions. What I loved most about the play was how it did not seem to have a beginning or an end. When it began, none of us felt sure whether it had actually begun and when it ended, I kept expecting the characters to return for another scene. Life is not something which can be defined or understood. It ebbs and flows, permeating through the chalk lines we try to enclose it within. You don’t remember when it began and you never know when it will end. All you do know, is that while you’re there, you might as well try to just give it sense and live it to the best of your abilities. Chalk About was one such play that took the audience through a similar journey, one as beautiful as life itself.