“the real guilty one, is destiny”.
When one hears of a play called Battlefield, one would expect to see dramatic scenes filled with death and pain. The triumph of the victor, the savoring of the moment and the sad defeat of the victims left behind in its path. Instead, the audience is met with a seemingly subtle play, with the battlefield being the internal conflicts between the main characters .
Inspired by The Mahabharata, the ancient Indian epic, the play is described to be “an immense canvas covering all the aspects of human existence”. Peter Brook advanced the legend adding more to its drama, bringing it to new heights and climaxes, twisting it into an emotional battlefield.
Against a wall of crimson with a spread of dirt-orange covering the ground, alongside the backdrop of the refurbished Capitol Theatres, Peter Brook’s second staging of Battlefield comes to life.
The cast of merely four actors and actresses with a single drummer (Toshi Tsuchitori), this 70 minute staging of the Battlefield greatly differs from the nine hour version previously directed by Peter Brook, primarily in length. While I have not gotten the chance to catch the nine hour version, its run time seemed very appropriate in the context of the constantly moving and progressing Singapore.
Through the skill of the actors and actress (Carol Karemera, Jared McNeill, Ery Nzaramba and Sean O’Callahan), Brook’s deep philosophies came to life as the tension between Pandava and Kauravas leads to a brutal fight to the death. Reincarnation, death, spirituality as well as fate and destiny are just a few of the many themes innate in Brook’s work as he explores life, death and everything within. Such themes were meant to be discussed in a religious context and beckons the audience to question the meaning of existence and the happening of events around us.
The choice of the Capitol Theatre as the venue reflects the original space that the nine hour piece was performed in: Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord in Paris. Both theatres having been redesigned and refurbished, and this almost seems to symbolise the reinvention of the plays.
Battlefield a monumental play in sheer scale and theatrical value as it manages to grip both the minds and the hearts of its audience. While initially starting off slow, the build up is strong and stable, leading to a stunning climax towards the end and a shockingly wonderful play.
Peter Brooks: the famous theatre practitioner, scriptwriter and director, known most famously for his book, ‘The Empty Space’, fully demonstrates the might and the power of effective directing. His principles firmly ingrained within both the set design and the characterisation of the characters within the play. While lacking elaborate sets and fancy costumes that many theatre shows boast, this essentially is what lends this play its strength as it overwhelms the audience with the pure emotion, cutting out the frivolity present in many modern productions.
Although it may be hard to understand and fully comprehend the full meaning to the play, it ignites a spark that makes you think and question the world that we have around us today. This thought provoking piece is something that definitely cannot be missed.
Battlefield is showing at Capitol Theatres from the 17 to 21 Nov. You can get your tickets here, with a special promotion of the tickets at $15 for students between 15 and 25 years old.