Sleep is a basic human need. Nobody can carry on with life without it. To attempt a play on this theme is obviously a challenging task.
Gujarat based writer and director Harsh Shodhan’s latest Gujarati play with a catchy name ‘Shubhratri (Good Night) revolves around the theme of sleep or sleep deficiency. The play is an attempt to let ‘sleep’ do the talking. Actor Chetan Daiya personifies as sleep and shares a collage of anecdotes. He presents the audience a range of stories–from a child losing his sleep after losing his compass book, a youth who falls in love in a war-torn country and a daughter nursing her perennially sick mother.
Shodhan is a well known name in theatre and has been running the Machaan Theatre Company from 2017. His repertoire comprises plays as ‘Yuyutsu’, ‘Line’, ‘Kashmirnaama’, ‘Remembering Charlie Chaplin’ and others. The charm of Shodhan’s writing lies in his nuances.
In one scene, the protagonist says, “ We both have read Mahatma Gandhi but it is just me who has also read Bhagat Singh.’
Shodhan’s political sharpness reflects in his script which talks about politicians who don’t hesitate to ‘kill for peace’.
In another scene, he writes how insomnia is not the opposite of sleep but the mere absence of it–intoxication is the real culprit, the opposite of sleep.
Another signature style of Shodhan is to seamlessly weave pop culture references with a heavyweight theme. Here, the central character casually says that sleep doesn’t come easily to youngsters wearing ripped jeans who claim ‘Life is hard’ but don’t actually work hard. Sleep comes to working class people who toil to earn a living.
The weakest link of the play is the lack of unity of time, place and action. The writer jumps from a beautiful love story in war-torn Syria to people of Saurashtra taking a siesta. It felt like a jump downhill, a fall from fine storytelling to WhatsApp forwards.
The duration of the show was somewhat stretched but actor Chetan Daiya breathed life into weaker patches of the script and sustained the interest of the audience.
You can watch the play on May 1, 9pm at Prayogshala 17, Suhasnagar Society Near Dinesh Hall, Ashram Rd, behind Prabhudas Jadiya Jewellers, Ahmedabad.