An exceptional one-man showKausi Theatre’s ‘Harek Babal Kura’ is a heart-warming tale that highlights the issue of mental health with the utmost sensitivity.
Ice-cream. The smell of the earth after rain. Things with stripes. The colour yellow. Sex.
As the unnamed narrator starts sharing the things that make him happy, the audience finds themselves connecting and empathising with him. The audience might not know the narrator personally, but the items on the list help the audience relate to the narrator and see bits and pieces of them in him. Like most people, he also seeks happiness in small things, and wants to love and be loved.
Titled ‘Harek Babal Kura’, the play is directed by Akanchha Karki and produced by Kausi Theatre. The play is a Nepali adaptation of ‘Every Brilliant Thing’, originally written by Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe in English and translated in Nepali by Karki and Kshitiz Parajuli.
It’s the first-ever physical play at Kausi since the Covid-19 pandemic gripped the country early last year.
What differentiates the play from the rest is that there is only one character—the narrator—played by Sudam CK. Unlike other plays, where characters are dressed in elaborate costumes, the play’s lone character wears simple everyday clothes, making him more relatable. He also doesn’t recite lengthy monologues, but instead, he interacts with the audience throughout the play, as if he’s talking to his friends and sharing his dark secrets and joys.
Throughout the play, the narrator tells the audience of his earliest memories, things that make him happy, sad, and angry. In the process, the audience gets to know a lot about him.
In the beginning, we learn that one of the earliest memories of the narrator was of his father picking him up from school one day. He was at the time around eight years old.
“I was surprised when he picked me from school because it was my mother who usually did it,” says the narrator as he recreates the scene for the audience.
Later, when he starts narrating his story, we learn that his mother couldn’t come to pick him up because she had attempted suicide and had to be taken to the hospital. We discover that she suffered from depression. Despite being too young to understand the gravitas of the situation, the narrator does his best to cheer up his mother.
He begins by making a list of things that he finds great that make life worth living. And throughout the play, he shares the list, either by talking about it time and again or by making the audience read it from a piece of paper, which was distributed to the members of the play before the start of the play.
Even after his mother returns from the hospital, he still keeps on adding to the list and continues it as he grows older.
As he grows older and the list grows, we realise that he has his issues and demons, which he shares with the audience throughout the play. Unlike other plays in which audience members' role is to observe, in ‘Harek Babal Kura’, the narrator randomly picks people from the audience and asks them to play a particular character—from his lover, father, childhood teacher to counsellor Miss Ambika.
As the play unfolds, the audience gets a peek into the narrator’s current mental state, how his past life experiences have left a mark on his life, and his ever-changing family dynamics.
The play has moments of happiness, grief, sorrow, and contentment, all of which the narrator both shares and recreates until the final act of the play. By the end of this heartwarming play, the audience will have laughed and cried along with the narrator.
And for that, CK, as an actor, deserves applause. His performance is so believable and convincing that it becomes difficult to distinguish him from the character. He also proves that he is not only a good actor but also a great storyteller.
With a run time of sixty-five minutes, it is a lengthy play, but CK’s terrific performance keeps the audience invested.
Likewise, it’s equally important to acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of Kausi Theatre for their decision to produce this play.
The play highlights the issue of mental health, which is hardly discussed in Nepali society, but it also treats the issue with utmost sensitivity. The play also deftly portrays our society’s refusal to accept mental health as a health issue. Many still do not find it essential to seek help for mental health-related issues, and those suffering from such problems often do not receive compassion.
Everything from the music, lights, circular seating arrangement to minimalist set design, lands perfectly with the play's overall theme and essence.
But what really stands out and makes the play impactful is the element of the audience engagement. By letting audience members engage with the narrator, the whole viewing experience gets amplified. While the members of the audience may not have CK’s acting chops, their engagement and participation give the play a raw quality, making it appear as if the narrator is sharing his own story.
But it’s not all positive. The play leaves many aspects of the narrator's life unexplored. For instance, how did his bond evolve with his mother, what led her to attempt suicide, and what were the exact issues that were troubling the narrator? Had the play explored these issues, it would have made for a more wholesome experience.
Nevertheless, you should definitely watch this inspiring and heart-warming play for the important issues it touches upon. Kausi Theatre deserves commendation for its effort to experiment and bring a new experience for the audience (with a top-notch acting performance by CK). It has a good balance of humour, compassion, grief, and retelling of experiences which gives us reasons for living.
Like life, the play is not perfect, but there are little things and nuances that make it worth watching. In the end, it’s the little things that matter, isn’t it?