by Lynn on December 18, 2010

in Archive,Picks & Pans

The theatre in the city does not seem to wind down for the holidays, with two openings this week. With so much theatre and too little time, our theatre critic Lynn Slotkin is here to review those two show: ROSHNI a play set in India today and STUDIES IN MOTION which takes place in the 1880s in the States.

Hello Lynn. Usually you tie shows together when you review two of them. What’s the connection between ROSHNI and STUDIES IN MOTION?

I guess, to be perverse, the fact that they are so different makes them interesting to me to talk about. Both deal with stories about people and their dreams. But both deal with the telling in startling, different ways with different results.

Ok. Let’s take them in turn. What’s Roshni about?

ROSHNI is written by the gifted Anusree Roy. It’s about two beggar children in Calcutta, who are devoted friends.

Chumki is a blind boot polisher, who also sings for donations from unsuspecting passers-by. She is saving her money to give to a mysterious man, who knows somebody, who can do an operation that will restore her sight.

Her partner in begging is King Kumar, who is a tea-seller. King Kumar is an equally wily kid who is saving his money to give to his uncle who says he can get him a job in a Bollywood film. King Kumar has visions of being a Bollywood star.

Each kid knows that the other is being cheated, and says but the friendship is firm until something drastic happens.

ROSHNI in Hindi means “light”.

And STUDIES IN MOTION, what’s the story there.

It’s the intersection of science and culture. The story is written by Kevin Kerr, and takes place in the 1880s. Usually in the States. It’s about photographer Eadweard Muybridge who was fascinated about the intricacies of movement. He took about 100,000 photos of animals and humans in various forms of movement—walking, running, jumping. In the case of the humans they were usually photographed nude. As he said he wanted to make the invisible visible.

He was investigating the components of a movement. How does it work? There are also aspects of his personal life, but at the centre of STUDIES IN MOTION is Muybridge’s obsession with his investigation.

I would think that the productions are vastly different.

They are and not just because ROSHNI has a cast of two and STUDIES IN MOTION has a cast of 12. ROSHNI is an intimate, love story of friendship. There is immediacy and charm in the performances of Anusree Roy as Chumki and Byron Abalos as King Kumar.

We see both their innocent hope, their intense efforts to survive and their sweet care for each other. The production is beautifully realized in the direction of Thomas Morgan Jones. If there is a quibble, it is that at times I thought the story was padded. Chumki singing three songs to get money is two too many. That said, I think the characters are beautifully, fully drawn and the story is told simply with economy.


The production is dazzling. Director Kim Collier has such an eye for the visually arresting image. She uses sound, projections, lighting and movement to achieve those images. For example there is a projection of a formidable building in the background that Muybridge will be working in, and then with one step there is another projection and we are in a large, impressive room inside that building. And of course a group of naked men and women running, walking or dancing across a stage will certainly get one to sit up.

While the production is visually dazzling, I found it emotionally sterile. That the look was all and that the characters were underdeveloped. I can appreciate that this is a deliberate choice, I just think that it diminishes the production to techno wizardry, albeit done at a high artistic level.

Also, Muybridge keeps saying that his investigation into movement will be invaluable to doctors, artists and many other professionals. I just wished that the play told me how or why the study would be important.

Ok you have concerns with both, would you recommend them?

Yes, in a shot. I would go anywhere to see the work of Anusree Roy and Kim Collier. Both ROSHNI and STUDIES IN MOTION have a lot to offer in different ways to our burgeoning theatre scene.

ROSHNI plays at Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace until December 11. STUDIES IN MOTION plays at the Bluma Appel Theatre until December 18.