Theatre, in itself, is illusion.
At least, that was the case for Norah Ramli’s twenty-minute monologue featuring a single monologist, a woman dressed in black sitting on a stool centre stage. It is the story of Donna, a writer with bipolar disorder and psychosis who falls in love with a jinn named Michael, played by the wondrous Marsya Hazanan. Michael is never acted out; rather, he is only mentioned throughout the piece as the man with the beautiful green eyes, whose straightforward childishness contrasts Donna’s bluntness and profanity. The play is everything profane and taboo, with a delicious touch of madness, love, and the supernatural. We enter Donna’s world as the audience to her little story. Her first few lines introduces her crime, but what we begin to learn is a terrible illness, an illness that has shattered her life considerably – she loses her lover, her unborn child, and broke relations with her mother. She meets Michael at a pub, and the two start a passionate affair until things begin to go wrong.
While the play’s content promises enchanting vulgarity, multiple climaxes, and deliberate smashing of glassware, Marsya’s performance brought “Blinds” to life. Her body language, vocal work, and character embodiment were exquisite. She is the sexy seductress, luring the green-eyed jinn into her; she is the intoxicated lover, finding orgasmic pleasure in Michael’s arms; she is the deluded writer, who mistakes illusion for reality; and she is the jealous madwoman, shooting her lover in the head out of disgust and hatred. But above all, she is the monologist, presenting her story with a strange conviction that we almost come close to believing it, and this is the strength of Norah Ramli’s “Blinds”.
Apart from the universal themes in which the piece illuminates, there seems to be a higher purpose at work. Theatre is, in fact, illusion, and as Donna talks to us, while she sits on her stool as though she might be in a pub, telling someone she meets a ‘funny little story’, she is talking to us directly as a woman telling the audience her experiences. There are gaps in the monologue when she tries to convince us the realness of her story, and at times, her persuasion is almost convincing. However, as theatregoers, we know that we are in the theatre, and that she is merely playing with us, creating an illusion that we too, play along with. We are aware that she does, or might lie, but we are absorbed in this lie too, because inevitably, as human beings, we love stories. We crave narratives, adventures, love and fairy tales, and we love it more when a person’s story, and their reality, is markedly different from us. And just as madness makes Donna disillusioned, we too, become disillusioned.
“Blinds” does not only play with illusions within the performance, but also in its relation to the audience. In theatre, we know nothing is real, but here is a woman who desperately wants us to accept her reality. We begin to question ourselves; what do we make of this? What is the meaning? What has this story taught us? “Blinds” allows us to use our reasoning to think of the possible meanings of the play, and this, I think, is our biggest responsibility as theatregoers.
Written and Directed by
By: Nora Ramli