By Gaudys Laxury
The New York International Fringe Festival is presenting Honour: Confessions of a Mumbai Courtesan during its 20th anniversary from August 12-28, 2016 at the WOW Café Theatre. In this dark tale, Honour offers an emotional take of survival, pride, and the pursuit of truth in Indian brothels written and performed by theatre artist and NYWIFT member Dipti Mehta.
The one-woman show tells the story of the life of a young courtesan in the Mumbai pleasure district as she floats through her inner desires to escape or succumb to her ill-fated destiny. Mehta plays not only Rani, the courtesan, but also the wide variety of characters she interacts with: Chameli, the mother; Laal, the Shyam; the pimp; Pandit, the priest; Mina, the Eunuch; and Draupadi, the princess from the Indian epic Mahabharata. Mehta’s performance is amazing — she beautifully embodies each role while masterfully intertwining character performance with rhythmic dance combinations.
The set is simple yet inviting, a chair with two pillows—less is more, which allows the audience to focus on the storyline and development of each character.
It would have been helpful to have a description on the program outlining the characters, but between Mehta’s interpretations and the background narration it is manageable enough to follow. The audience stays engaged throughout the entire show, laughing at the comedic moments and remaining quiet during the poignant parts. Mehta makes her incredibly controlled performance appear spontaneous and effortless, while fully and crisply embodying the characters.
Throughout each of the stories, movement and powerful music captivate the audience. One cannot help but visualize the struggles Rani, Chameli and Mina have endured and ponder how in real life most of the women involved in similar situations do not have a choice about their occupation.
Each story is skillfully crafted and connected, and Mehta gracefully transitions from one character to the other. She is phenomenal in her theatrical interpretation of the main character, Rani, who learned the tricks of the trade in order to entice potential clients, but is not allowed to pursue her sexuality for her own fulfillment. The depiction of the complexities between the mother and daughter is deeply moving. Mehta is particularly hilarious as Mina (the Eunuch) and gives the priest spiritual dignity with her deceptively gentle but comedic manner.
Honour stirs many emotions — alternately fun, sad, touching, comedic, and entertaining — while bringing light to a serious subject matter in modern society: sex trade and the women involved.
Honour is playing at the WOW Café Theatre (59-61 East 4th Street, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10003).
There are two shows remaining:
Friday, August 26th at 2:00 p.m.
Saturday, August 27th at 5:00 p.m.
Tickets are available at FringeNYC.org.