In 1987, Peter Brook staged’ The Mahabharata’ as a nine-hour epic. Now, in’ Battlefield ,’ he stunningly pares down the central narrative of the ancient epic.”>
Preceding Peter Brook and Marie-Hlne Estiennes Battlefield at BAMs Harvey Theater is a piece of theater history: In 1987 the theater, then named the Majestic, was inaugurated by Brooks nine-hour, sunset-to-sunrise production of the ancient Indian Sanskrit poem The Mahabharata.
Battlefield is a significantly shorter distillation of the central narrative of the epic, running at around one hour and 15 minutes.
An almost bare stage is furnished by what look like thin strips of timber, and rich, colorful shawls, designed by Oria Puppo, in red and blueand in dour browns and grays at harsher moments later in the piece. It is staging at his sparest, with four characters and no scream or physical violence, or elaborate furnishings.
The characters words are accompanied by the drum of Toshi Tsuchitori, which masterfully orbits every mood between stirring and mournful.
The action begins at the end of the terrible war within the Bharata family between the five Pandavas brothers and their cousins the Kauravas, the 100 sons of blind people monarch Dhritarashtra( Sean OCallaghan ).
It is he who opens the play, with a woeful, deeply felt declamation of war and its discontents. Bodies still litter the battlefield, the land is ruined: What has it all been for, and what can be restored in its terrible aftermath?
That is the question facing Yudhishthira( Jared McNeill ), the eldest of the Pandavas who will now become king. He has also endured the loss of two brothers( Ery Nzaramba ). Carole Karemera plays Kunti, Yudhishthiras mother, thoughlike all the actors on stageshe also plays a number of other intriguing, story-weaving characters.
The play feels very contemporary at the outset, its characters mordantly counting the cost of conflict.
We wanted to speak about what happens after the combat, Brook has said. How will the old blind monarch, who has lost all his sons and all his allies, be able to coping and assume their responsibility with his victorious nephew?
On both sides, the leaders go through a moment of profound questioning: The ones who won tell victory is a defeat and the ones who lost admit that they could have prevented that war.
In The Mahabharata they at least have the strength to ask these questions. Our real audience is Obama and his successor,[ and] Putin, and all the presidents. The topic is, how do they assure their foes in this day and age?
If watching the news induces you furious as you contemplate such matters, Brook hopes the theater offers a collective space of concentration to consider them, and to leave nourished.
In the span of the play, it seems first that the heartbreak of the young king will be insurmountable, and why would he want to lead what he has to lead now, especially after he discovers he has murdered his fucking brother. With that knowledge arrives guilt and a wretched sense of hopelessness.
The stage floor seems a light washed-out red, eliciting in this viewers mind the literal bloodstains of a battlefield.