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A ‘Mask’ watch!

After enthralling audiences in Delhi and Bengaluru, Berlin-based theatre mask specialists come to Mumbai for the first time with their highly-acclaimed production Hotel Paradiso

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A ‘Mask’ watch!
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After taking their performance to Delhi and Bengaluru when both cities were in the midst of Diwali chaos the last few days, Berlin-based physical theatre company Familie Flöz is looking forward to a ‘normal’ performance in Mumbai tonight. Their mask theatre play, Hotel Paradiso, is here in India after performing in 34 countries and doing over 700 shows. Using 20 masks, the four actors on stage enact 22 characters. The family entertainer does not rely on dialogues to convey emotions, rather, it lays emphasis on body language to do the same.

Expressing emotions

While one would assume that the use of dialogues would make the jobs of the actors easier, Gianni Bettucci, one of the producers and spokesperson for Familie Flöz, believes that by using body language, they are able to convey so much more. “It is the language that comes before any language. Today, one uses a lot of words, noise and music to express what they are feeling, but we focus on the body language. Think of the silent movies of Charlie Chaplin and you will know what I mean. They are so funny!” Gianni adds. 

Describing the play as one that has a bit of everything, actor Nicholas Witte reveals that the play is about a four star hotel which has seen better days. “The siblings who are running it have different ideas about managing the place and are constantly fighting. There are various characters which are introduced through the course of the play and there is also a corpse in the middle of all this!” he says. While there are moments when the audience will laugh out loud, there are sad moments as well. “So yeah, a bit of everything,” he adds. 

Nicholas admits that it is challenging for any actor to convey emotions on stage without the help of dialogues. “But luckily, we all have the talent for it,” he smiles. In a way, he adds, they do speak but not out loud. “Our dialogues are made up of body movements. We work a lot with our emotions, archetype moments so that everybody in the audience can feel the same emotions. We work a lot with imagination, so the audience can imagine their own story in them,” he says.

Simple form

Having performed in 34 countries, Gianni reveals that different audiences react differently to the play. Recalling the performance they did in Iran, he recalls changing around the story of the play a bit as the male and female characters could not touch each other on stage. “We had to censor the sexual innuendos, which are actually quite light but a bit too strong for a place like Iran,” he adds. In Finland, the audience didn’t have much of a reaction while watching the play. “They didn’t laugh at all. Later, they came to the greenroom to tell the actors that watching the play was one of the most beautiful experiences of their life, while in Budapest, the applause at the end was so military that some of the actors on stage got scared!” he laughs.
 
Probably the only theatre company in Europe that works solely with masks, Familie Flöz has been brought down to India by Ashvin Gidwani’s AGP World. Gianni says that it’s always a challenge to perform in a different country and in front of a different culture. “We take up this challenge because we want to communicate the magic of the masks. It is something you need to find out for yourself. This is a time when we are overwhelmed by big productions, big movies, big effects and everything is so loud. But instead of huge productions that create very little emotion, we want to bring in something simple like the mask form which can create deep emotions,” he concludes. 

Hotel Paradiso will be staged today, November 5 and 6 at St Andrews Auditorium, Bandra.   

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