Created and Performed by Nisha Madhan, in collaboration with Poppy Serano,Titled is one of the two Feminist theatre shows that make up this season.
In Titled, the audience is presented with a layering of systems: Astrological charts, religious ritual, paper forms and sticky labels – to explore the interplay between Art and Bureaucracy. Madhan explains in the programme (which we receive at the end of the show) that through her creative practice she has filtered down the fundamentals of performance to a space, a time, a performer and an audience. She concludes that all she as an artist seeks is to stand in front of us. This theme is strongly communicated throughout, particularly in the final act.
Titled is both complicated and simple. The audience is lead through stages like uncomfortable tourists and at each stage they are asked by Madhan to move spaces and engage in a different role or ritual. The first space is claustrophobic (a trigger warning is displayed upon entering). The second space is a blank canvas and in it Madhan, warm and encouraging, invites us to question the nature of space, time and human contact. In the final space, she embodies her second character, a religious leader. This High-Priestess-like persona strongly contrasts with the approachable and silent nature of her first character. Madhan moves between characters with dexterity and commitment to her craft; she is a powerful performer. A highlight of the show for me was when she made this character transition through a bold movement piece which held the audience enthralled.
According to the programme for Titled, everyone involved acts as a (tongue-in-cheek) ‘Advisor’. Stephen Bain and Poppy Serano ‘advised’ on the unique spatial design. The transformative nature of the design elements strongly resonated with the themes of systems and convolution. The lighting design wasn’t obvious until the final space. Here it highlighted symbolic elements; one example of this was a spotlight shone on a ‘cleansing’ bowl of water situated centre-stage. The lighting design also accompanied Madhan’s physical journey with seamless fades. The over-all design is a strong element of the show and, particularly in the last section makes innovative use of the theatre space.
I was surprised at every stage of this show and kept in my mind one of the questions asked in our entry form “will you stay for the whole performance?”. Repetition of themes and activities pushed the audience to engage with this question and at times people did lose interest. A stronger sense of connection could be achieved with smaller audience sizes and reduced time in each space. Despite feeling overwhelmed with the ratio of people to space, the audience interaction made me delight in the natural reactions of myself and those around me; there were moments of shared joy.
Titled is on until the 16th of April at BATS Theatre in the Propeller Stage at 6.30pm.