Last week, I experienced a story enacted through a play directed by Rajiv Krishnan, inside an experimental theatre despite the humid, summer heat that merrily was cooking, baking, toasting and skinning, all who enthusiastically watched this incredible play, entitled, How To Skin A Giraffe?


The name of the play intrigues me. It sparks off my overly sensitive, animal activist, artist-friend, sending instantaneous shivers, and shudders down her delicate spine. It is the hottest time of the year in our coastal town of Morattandi in Tamil Nadu. Nature’s ingenious way of cooling a human body is by allowing the constant release of streams of sweat, down our backs, through the minutest hair follicles, in the slightest, hidden crevice of our mysterious body, while simultaneously releasing an unforgettable odour amidst the dense crowd gathered to see this play. I feel at ease having equipped myself with a hand fan, and choose to drape with an exaggerated, theatrical flamboyance to distract myself from the rising heat. Inspired by a light, translucent, soft, checkered, cotton sari, I am bejewelled in silver. The silver sucks off this body heat, and so I generously pierce or slip, this cooling metal in my ears, wrists, nose, finger, toes, ankles, waist and neck too. I feel rooted by its weight and chill, around the serpentine curves and swells of this body. Refreshed after eating a chilled bowl of fruit at home, we drive to our neighbourhood’s quaint, and rustic theatre. The crowd is buzzing with excitement. Candescent bulbs inside rustic lamps, flicker occasionally due to the unsteady voltage. Some of them are covered with coloured cellophane paper, adding drama, and glitter to the festive evening. After, a few sweet exchanges with enthusiastic friends, the theatre bells begin to toll. The third bell tolls to open the side gates of the main theatre. Every body rushes in. An ocean of varied footwear take their respectful place in the pebbled pathways, the stone steps, and upon the red earth that frames this theatre. I choose to seat myself on the topmost bench in the center. I am pleasantly surprised to sense an unexpected breeze, offer a little wind onto my calves and feet. Peeping under my seat, I find a fan camouflaged behind my bench. It allows me to tune inward to the tingling sensation that often simmers and bubbles inside me, before an artistic experience.


Costume design: Silken garments in red, purple, blue and green hues. One golden underwear. Silken frills. Threaded mop, as a tail.

Props: Spiralling bamboo branches, aluminium frames screwed together with nuts and bolts, a few possibly welded. Wooden planks, thick rope, and two tennis balls. Paper mâché masks.

Music: A vintage car horn, String and Percussion instruments. A pair of live musicians. Collective human voices crescendoing to melodious harmonies.

Light design: Sharp shafts, and soft halos of golden, pink, light. Black outs and shadows.

Actors and the Act: Human bodies move with ease, imagination, playfulness, clarity and strong will, painting pictures through empty space, creating a rich plethora of multiple-dimensions. They create infinity, studded with twinkling stars, fragrant orchards, and dreamy meadows with swaying, tender, green grasses. We enter a dream with luminous, spirited souls, who romance amidst fragile, enticing, giant, soap bubbles. We inhale an aroma of sizzling meat, awakening a ravenous appetite. Tasting words and visuals in every verbal bite. We listen to puns, sarcasms, wit, wisdom, and the musicality of language, literature in native tongues and dialects. Strong, expressive voices weave seamlessly over an occasional, poignant yet playful bark of a pet dog. The authority, the dictator, the power, the control, the classroom, the class teacher, the police, the law, the minister, the Royal family, the maid, the friend, all keep alive, the fire of mass hypnosis. The mechanised prawn factory, the puppets and the masks, open a window into the complexity and subtlety of human mind. A select few, awaken to an emptiness, and a rebellion, and others awaken to subservience, and a mute trust. We see suspended in the thick, sultry air, swinging cocoons, gestating with gluttony, thirst, aimlessness, freedom, bondage, hierarchy, lineage, the burdening blood-line, the obedience, the defiance, and the celebration. These, ultimately metamorphose into a turbulent ocean of colourful, unique butterflies. In the winds of this turbulent fragility, a poet-philosopher is born. Ironically, in time, he chooses death over life. But the attempted suicide is in vain. The strife for departure only brings him back to the beginning, leaving me wondering, if anyone ever left, or moved, or metamorphosed into a butterfly, or a giraffe, or anything other than who they have always been?

Resonance of the play: Thumb prints and patterns may vary, but do we keep returning to the same archetypes?

What did we skin?

Who did we skin?

What is being skinned?

Is there anyone to be skinned?

Is there anything to be skinned?

What is skin?

And Why A Giraffe?

To which my husband remarks, “It is the tallest living quadruped animal. The prawn is a large free swimming crustacean. We are processing the prawn, and in the process, skinning the giraffe. When you look at something closely enough, striking patterns emerge, between the skin of giraffe and prawn, between the fool, the philosopher Prince, the thoughtful King, the shrewd business woman, her dreamy daughter, her maid, and all the other characters – all just prawns, skinning and processing each other, in the clutches of inescapable destiny.”