Bruce Guthrie was recently announced as the Head of Theatre and Films for the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), Mumbai. The British theatre director was formerly the Artistic Director of National Youth Theatre of Wales. Last year, Guthrie directed Jim Sarbh and Mansi Multani in British playwright Nick Payne’s Constellations. The play explores the romantic relationship between Roland and Marianne through the lens of cosmology. It will return in November to the NCPA from Thursday, November 21 to Sunday, November 24. Here’s what he had to say about the drama.
Constellations was critically acclaimed and sold out in 2018 when you directed it for NCPA. What appealed to you about the play?
The central idea of using string theory and quantum cosmology to tell the story of the relationship of a couple is such an ambitious idea. Nick Payne has executed that brilliantly. There is such elegance in the way the play is structured. It’s an unusual take on a very normal relationship. Like all great plays, it works on multiple levels, so whilst it explores the concept of quantum cosmology, that’s not what the play is about. Roland (Jim Sarbh) and Marianne (Mansi Multani) go through a multitude of possible outcomes to a variety of different circumstances. This is an exciting challenge for the actors as they have to flip between scenes that are very similar to a point, but then the entire scene can change with the difference of one word. I find the play to be funny, heartbreaking, beautiful and thought-provoking.
You’ve said that the current version of the play is somewhat different from the 2018 production. How has it changed?
We have had time to think about the first iteration of the show and now there is an opportunity to develop ideas we felt we didn’t get the opportunity to explore. We have altered parts of design in terms of the set, music and sound. The actors will also come with different ideas, having had time to think about the play over the past year. They have both had a very successful year, working across theatre, film and television and so they have developed and explored their craft in a multitude of ways.
Tell us about casting Jim Sarbh and Mansi Multani.
We auditioned many terrific actors in 2018, but Jim and Mansi had a wonderful connection when they read together. They are both incredibly accomplished actors who are full of ideas and mischief. They make each other laugh, which is valuable when dealing with the deeper, more emotional aspects of the play. They are very open in rehearsals, taking on ideas and direction with generosity and skill.
You were recently appointed Head of Theatre and Films at NCPA, which completed 50 years this year. What’s your vision for the institution?
We are currently working on this. I’ve been here for five weeks and spending a lot of time meeting with local theatre companies and practitioners to get to know the scene here in Mumbai. There is a thriving community here, full of energy and life with exciting work happening all over the city. My hope is that the acting community sees the NCPA as a place they want to make work with and for. We aim to be an organisation that stands for excellence in the arts and supports local talent whilst also embracing the international scene.