Dance Like a Man

SKY CITY Theatre, Auckland

13/10/2006 - 14/10/2006

Diwali Festival of Lights

Production Details

Written by Mahesh Dattani
Directed by Lillete Dubey

Primetime Theatre Company

A universally acclaimed English play written by Mahesh Dattani, one of India’s leading contemporary playwright and performed by the Primetime Theatre Company, Dance Like a Man is an intimate tale which portrays the social scene in South India.

Oscillating between the present and time gone by, it is the story of two Bharat Natyam dancers, Jairaj and Ratna, both well past their prime, juxtaposed with that of their daughter, Lata, who is on the brink of establishing herself as a brilliant dancer. Her imminent success creates tension and jealousy, and the audience is drawn into the dark secrets of family relationships and conflicts between generations.

The play enthrals by presenting serious issues such as family conflicts and dark household secrets in a more humorous light without losing focus. It probes and dwells into the psyche of the characters as it questions their deeper motivations. But, the mode is comic rather than tragic, even though the concerns are serious, and you are never sure whether to laugh or cry.

This international play is Primetime Theatre Company’s most celebrated renowned play and is considered by many to be a milestone in original English Theatre in India. It has completed over 250 shows worldwide including a 2 week run off Broadway in New York at the Tribeca Arts Centre, sell-out performances at Bloomsbury and Waterman Theatre in London, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Portland International Performing Arts Festival in Oregon, USA and several cities across the globe including Lahore, Colombo, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and as well as all the major centres and smaller cities in India.

Dance Like A Man is still running in India and abroad, it is both the most successful and the longest running original English play in India today.

This two-act play is directed by Primetime Theatre Co. artistic director, Lillete Dubey of Monsoon Wedding and Zubeida fame, and features a cast of four – Lillete Dubey, Vijay Crishna, Joy Sengupta and Suchitra Pillai.

Dates: Fri 13th October & Sat 14th October 2006

Venue: SKYCITY THEATRE           Show Time: 8.00 pm  

Book now @ Ticketek: 09 307 5000 or

A Theatre experience brought to you by ENTRE NOUS

Along with SKYCITY Theatre, ASIA NZ Foundation, Radio TARANA

Sets by: Early Settler

Lillete Dubey
Vijay Crishna
Joy Sengupta
Suchitra Pillai

Sets by: Early Settler

Theatre , Dance ,

Trans-generational tale of ambition and regret

Review by Nik Smythe 15th Oct 2006

Dance Like a Man marks the New Zealand debut of ‘The Primetime Theatre Company’, helmed by the very active Lillette Dubey.  As well as being heavily involved in the contemporary Indian film industry – her most famous credit to date in this country must be the excellent Monsoon Wedding – Dubey directs this production and plays Ratna, mother of traditional dance superstar hopeful Lata (Suchitra Pillai, who also plays a younger Ratna in the retrospective scenes).

Opposite Pillai is Joy Sengupta, both as Ratna’s husband Jairaj as a younger man, and as Lata’s fiancé Viswas, who in the opening scene is about to meet Lata’s parents for the first time and gain their approval, and vice versa: Lata – ‘You are a part of the family.’ Viswas – ‘Not yet, I still have to approve of your parents.’ 
Completing the cast of four, Vijay Crishna plays Jairaj opposite Dubey’s Ratna, and Jairaj’s father Amritlal Parikh, a popular social reformer in his day whose spirit still looms heavily in the old family house.

Lata is soon to perform a recital which she and especially her mother hope will be the springboard to a prosperous career as a dancer.  It’s evident that Ratna, herself a dancer in her youth when such activities were more controversial, is living vicariously through her daughter’s career.

Through the classic art of theatrical flashback we witness the conflict between Jairat and his father that resulted in his present day wounds.  A great exponent of the freedom of all people, and a well respected philanthropist in his community, it seems Amritlal fell short of accepting his own son’s desire to dance with his wife, urging Ratna to subversively dissuade Jairaj from continuing his dancing.

The tale takes an unexpected turn near the end, with the revelation of a tragedy which befell Jairaj and Lata as young parents: a powerfully performed scene which ultimately explains the decline and dissolution of Jairat’s own career and ambition, which he has been blaming on his father, and his wife.

The acting is solid throughout the tale, with simple, strong direction enhancing the sparky and entertaining script of Mahesh Dattani. The character-switching between generations device is skillfully controlled by the actors.  Sengupta switches from lovable clown Viswas to serious and oddly effeminate young Jairat.  Crishna plays an old man who has become more like his dead father, but with distinctly less militant conservatism.  Pillai’s young Ratna indicates that Lata is her mother’s daughter but, like Viswas, Lata is more secure and playful. 

One major disappointment in the whole event was that I was really keyed up to see some dancing, having been presumptuous enough to expect a play with ‘Dance’ in it’s title – where three of the five characters are dancers, and which has a harmonium and a pair of drums placed tauntingly down stage throughout the entire play – would include a demonstratively spectacular display of music and dance.  But there are only a couple of moments of dance in the whole thing.

Perhaps in Indian culture it’s more common to see dancing in almost everything, so they don’t miss it when presented with a well wrought, compelling drama.  It could only enhance the whole event to have a good demonstration of dancing in it, most obviously the recital which Lata is working towards in the first act, which they are reading the reviews of as the second act opens.

There are many cultural aspects which I probably didn’t get.  For instance, I gather there are issues between Lata and Viswas’s different castes’ ways of taking tea or coffee.  Also, there’s not much palpable chemistry between Viswas and Lata.  It may be a matter of cultural form; Dubey and Crishna as Suchrita’s parents connect more strongly, convincingly married for forty years.

Without being learned in their specific differences, it was amusing enough simply to recognise the way such clashes play out between them/us.  No matter how different our cultural traditions, we cannot shake our basic human connection, try as we may to deny it.  Dance Like a Man‘s key issues of family, freedom and the struggle to succeed are ubiquitous and perennial. 

I look forward to seeing more works from Entre Nous and the Primetime Theatre Co.


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