Alex Broun’s play sees oneness message in Vivekananda

Alex Broun

Alex Broun

By Neena Badhwar

Alex Broun, director, actor and past director of Sydney’s ”˜Short & Sweet’ Theatre festival is quite busy these days. He is directing a play on the life of Swami Vivekananda ”“ an idea brought to him by Madhu Sen.

Alex has written TV and film scripts and also about 70 short plays which have been staged all around the world in various festivals in over 600 productions.

Quite well known in India too as Alex started short & Sweet theatre festival in Delhi first – a genre and style of short play as short as ten minutes took off so well that it spread to Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai. Alex spent six months in India having visited the country for the first time. He observed India from a different angle and ended up writing a couple of short plays as he travelled through the landscape. Says Alex about short plays is that ”˜they say everyone has a novel in them though I am not sure about that but definitely I am sure that people do have a ”˜ten minute play’ in   them.”

The beauty of a short play according to Alex is, “You can write the idea in less than 1200 words, cast actors and even help direct it and see it come live on stage in front of your very eyes,” as many from Sydney’s Indian community have attended his workshops organised every year in the month of June by Abhinay School of Performing Arts.

Once one comes in contact with Indians and India it is impossible that the country will not rub on them. Alex is the same as he found India quite an amazing place, first he was overwhelmed by its sheer vastness but also of a society which is so diverse. “From Delhi to Chennai I found tremendous talent in people. I developed deep fascination as I saw different languages being spoken, different cultures and lifestyles that people live merging into each other yet one sees not much tension. Here in Australia we have massive fear of Islam yet in India people living side by side yet practice different religions and are quite accepting of each other’s differences.”

Back in Sydney Alex could not but get away from India and its heritage as he got asked to direct a  play on Swami Vivekananda’s life on the 150th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s birth. The play is titled ”˜Oneness ”“ Voice without form’ which will be staged   on September 17 and 18 at the Sydney Opera House.

Catching up with Alex while he is attending a retreat doing sessions with a swami on meditation and yoga we are sure he didn’t realise that directing a play on Swami Vivekananda can turn out to be a life changing experience, not just for him, but also the rest of the cast as well and  the production team.   Alex, who is addressed as the guru of ”˜short plays’ , is an actual guru of sorts himself as he conducts his theatre workshops where one does activities that equally relax and help one enter into a realm of a different kind.

Says Alex about the play, “Its is a great challenge to portray the character of Swami Vivekananda as I have spent reading through his complete works for the past few months. One man’s struggle to search for enlightenment his life  was really quite extraordinary.”

“He is a great character someone who wanted to find God and how he struggled to spread the message of his Guru Swami Ramakrishna. How he impressed people like Rockfeller, Sara Burnhart in those days who became his disciples. He is a great character on stage.”

“It took a lot of time and thought to put his life into a script something that will carry the message of Vedanta that ”“ all religions in essence are same though their paths may be different   – with the aim to ultimately find spiritual enlightenment. Especially in today’s world which is full of tension due only to religions.”

Talking about the cast, Alex has been able to pull in very talented people ”“ Saheb Chatterjee   a Calcutta based actor and singer who has an uncanny resemblance to Swami Vivekananda. Says Alex, “And he can sing too as Vivekananda was a very good singer.”

Swami Vivekananda small

Saheb Chatterjee as Swami Vivekananda with Dana Dajani as Sister Nivedita

“We have Dana Dajani   – a Dubai based Mulim actress playing the role of sister Nivedita. Holy mother is played by Isaro Kayitsi while a South African actor Robert plays Swami Ramakrishna.”

“The play has such a varied and multicultural cast that is special as they are all keen and have been deeply touched by the life story   of this great man   who changed the world through his message.”

Will there be the recreation of the famous speech by Swami Vivekananda, Alex assures, “ I am sure people who come to witness the play will go back with a deep feeling of having seen Swami Vivekananda live on stage,  “Saheb looks very much like Swami Vivekananda.”

Alex and his team have been rehearsing nonstop on the play ”“ Oneness ”“ Voice without form’ yet Swami Vivekananda’s real form will sure make many in the audience happy. “It sure has been a life changing experience for us all who are involved in the project. Do come and experience it for yourself,” says Alex.

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