Muscat: A theatrical performance should be an experience unlike any other, something different from day to day life, says Roysten Abel, director of The Manganiyar Seduction, who hopes audiences at the Royal Opera House Muscat will discover exactly that this weekend.
The Keralite, who has vast experience directing Shakespearean theatre, is bringing The Manganiyar Seduction to Oman for the first time this Thursday and Friday. Since its debut in New Delhi in 2006, it has been performed all over the world, but Abel admits he's not sure what to expect from the audience here in Oman.
"You really don't know when you're going into countries which are experimenting with new cultures. But it's cool in a way, because it's an opportunity to get surprised," he told Times of Oman.
The one-act, 80-minute production features 43 musicians playing in 36 stacked boxes.
The music revolves around a Sufi poem, and includes voices and instruments. Abel says he was inspired by some Indian musicians whose music had a very seductive effect when he listened to them.
"They actually seduced me into their world, and I wanted to translate that into a physical expression for theatre," Abel says.
A little bit hesitantly, Abel admits that the use of stacked cubicles in which the musicians perform was inspired by Amsterdam's red-light district. "It was the most theatrical sight I'd ever seen," he says.
"I thought: let's use it in a theatrical way. Over there it's the seduction of the body, but here it's the seduction of the soul."
While the women in the windows in Amsterdam were using their bodies to seduce, in this case the musicians use their instruments and voices to seduce the audiences' souls.
"For me these musicians are all like the gems of the country so they need to be showcased, so they're in small showcases," he adds.
Abels says he has taken traditional Indian poems and music and presented them in a very modern way which connects to a contemporary audience.
Abel says he enjoys taking The Manganiyar Seduction to international audiences because it highlights some of the best of Indian music and culture in a unique way.
"I believe in the universality of the show, so it's so important for me to take it to unknown audiences and make an impact. It draws you in irrespective of culture," he says. The production has been touring for the past six years and will continue to tour for at least three more.
Abel says its success is based on the fact that all the audiences are profoundly touched by what they have seen. While the audio-visual and theatrical elements draw them in, the music and poetry take them on a subconscious, spiritual journey. "After the show you see everybody grinning from ear to ear. People feel extremely happy and joyous after watching the show," Abel concludes.