Lifeline 99 99 - A New Interactive Performance by Kaivalya Plays
Kaivalya Plays’ Lifeline 99 99 directed by Akshay Raheja and Gaurav Singh warns you about the greed and loneliness that consume our lives, through a one on one storytelling experience.
Soon, a year will have passed since theatre venues shuttered their doors to audiences. In that time, theatre-makers across the country embraced digital platforms to showcase their art. With venues starting to open up and audiences returning to stage plays slowly yet steadily, there are still many many theatre groups and professionals experimenting with digital platforms such as Zoom, OBS, Facebook and other live streaming technologies to put up their plays and present to online audiences. However, the intent to create “live” theatre continues to intrigue artists, one of whom is Delhi-based performing arts company Kaivalya Plays, whose new play ‘Lifeline 99 99’ takes the audience through a journey on their phones.
Directed by Akshay Raheja and Gaurav Singh, the play combines the use of IVRS technology with live storytelling over the phone. After registering, the audience calls the Lifeline 99 99. This connects them to an IVR machine that enquires about their preference for an experience. Based on their responses, a few minutes later, someone or something calls back but who calls back? Maybe a conflicted sex chat operator or a dead human being or a piece of art, personified. What is known about the Lifeline 99 99 is that it is loaded with fundamental philosophical questions of our absurd times.
The performance is backed by an ensemble cast of Nikie Bareja, Raghav Seth, Kumar Abhimanyu and Ramita Menon and is supported by Thespo’s Audio-Torium, an initiative that encourages the creation of audio-based performances by theatre-makers under the age of 25. In development since October 2020, the creative team of Lifeline 99 99 has been rehearsing remotely across three different time zones, a testament to its unique form that interrogates connection across distance. Akshay Raheja says “It was a conscious decision to restrict this interactive play to a one on one performance, which retains the life of a theatrical experience over a digital medium.” Gaurav Singh adds “Talking to a stranger over the phone isn’t what’s unique, but what’s at stake is the difference. Every episode asks the audience member to change something in each narrative.”
While the stories you hear in these episodes are fictional, they seek to bring out the absurdities of the lives we are living. “Potentially, theatre exists in every live human interaction”, says Akshay, and adds “It is the role of an audience in a breathing performance, how their understanding, trust and expectation changes the performance and the actors in real-time”. Gaurav believes that the interactive nature of the performance is what sets it apart, adding “While all of us may encounter the same emotion (e.g. grief), we all process it differently. It is exciting for us to see how every audience member will leave with a slightly different experience in each show.”
The show opens for audiences in India on 20th and 21st February 2021. Given its deep reliance on phone technology, the team is working hard to make the show accessible to global audiences in a manner that’s financially sustainable. “Right now we are completely self-funded and would need significant funding to cover the technology costs for the next phase”, says Gaurav and adds they are planning to apply to grants and festivals focused on digital theatre, even though such opportunities are limited in India. They hope that audiences enjoy the unique experiences and keep coming back to hear a different episode of Lifeline 99 99.
You can purchase tickets for Lifeline 99 99 on the PayTM-Insider website today and dial in for some drama on your phone.
Premieres on 20th and 21st February, 6PM to 9PM IST
Tickets (INR 200/-) available at the link - bit.ly/lifeline9999
Upcoming performances: March 6, 7, 20 & 21 and April 3, 4.
Cast & Crew
Co-Director, Writer - Akshay Raheja
Akshay Raheja is a theatre director and playwright based in New Delhi. Over the last six years, he has led multiple collaborators – actors, writers, designers and production staff – to create indelible live theatre experiences. His work has been showcased across India in the Old World Theatre Festival, Sahitya Kala Parishad and the Thespo, International Youth Theatre Festival in Mumbai. His plays have been produced and hosted by eminent Indian cultural institutions like Instituto Cervantes, India Habitat Centre and Jawahar Kala Kendra. He has trained under Tadpole Repertory and assisted Abhishek Majumdar in Eidgah ke Jinnat (2018).
Co-Director, Performer - Gaurav Singh
Gaurav Singh is a theatre-maker, improviser and arts manager from New Delhi who is currently based in London where he is studying at The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. He is the General Manager at Kaivalya Plays (India) and the Communications Manager at The Nursery Theatre (UK). He received the prestigious Chevening India Scholarship (2020) as well as the Gender Bender (2019) grant. He is also working on a new audio play under Writer’s Lab Mumbai, an initiative by G5A Foundation for Contemporary Culture and Soho Theatre.
Performer - Raghav Seth
Raghav Seth is a BA Graduate in Theatre Studies, English and Psychology from CHRIST (Deemed to be University). He is trained in Western Theatre and has also developed a skill for voice acting. He also sings, writes poetry, and has recently got into rapping and film-making. He is a firm believer in growing in his fields and becoming better in his craft!
Performer - Ramita Menon
Ramita Menon is a freelance yoga teacher, improviser and Spanish language learner from New Delhi, India currently based in Spain. She sees art as an invitation to possibility, a way to be lost and a way to be found. She enjoys creating art essentially about people, their experiences and complexities. Ramita hopes to engage people with art in as many ways as possible creating interdisciplinary and broadly accessible work.
Performer - Kumar Abhimanyu
Kumar Abhimanyu is a Delhi-based actor, director and designer who has been doing theatre for the past six years. He has performed at Old World Theatre Festival, Sahitya Kala Parishad and Bira Fest. He has constantly been engaged in the process of writing and designing his plays. He has completed his master's in Performance Studies from Ambedkar University, Delhi where he studied under the guidance of Anuradha Kapur, Deepan Sivaraman and Arjun Raina. He has trained with Tadpole Repertory and Indian Ensemble.
Performer - Nikie Bareja
Nikie Bareja is an artist based out of Delhi, currently pursuing her Post Graduate Diploma in FTII, Pune. She is also a trained Kathak dancer who graduated from St. Stephen’s College in 2019, where she acted and directed productions for the collegiate group The Shakespeare Society that went on to be showcased at the Indian Habitat Centre as part of the Old World Collegiate Theatre Festival, the Shakespeare Society of India as well as Insituto Cervantes. While composing ‘Blind Spots’, University of Delhi’s presentation at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival ’17, she found theatre to serve as the empirical lens to observe society and as a catalyst to portray multiple perceptions.
Production Manager - Stuti Kanoongo
Stuti Kanoongo is a lifestyle product and graphic designer, who is now focusing on a career in design management. After graduating from NIFT in 2018 and working across different organizations, she graduated from the inaugural batch of the Theatre Management Fellowship by Kaivalya Plays and joined the company as Communications Manager in September 2020. Here, Stuti oversees communications, audience development and program operations, whilst occasionally dabbling in production management.