What does it mean to be human? Third Space Collective attempts to deliberate this question through absurdity and dystopia, with their play Mahish. Inspired by Eugene Ionesco’s play Rhinoceros (1959) that deals with the pre-war emergence of fascism and conformity, Mahish employs parallels of free will and mass hysteria to touch upon themes of alterity and ‘otherness’.
Set in a small town that finds itself immersed in Navratri rituals and worship, the inhabitants are simultaneously faced with the lurking omnipresent threat of Mahish — grotesque buffaloes that seem to multiply and contaminate their surroundings. Protagonist Vandana finds the people of her town metamorphosing into this ugly, and seemingly violent, creature, and is determined to save the human race by remaining rational in the face of chaos and uncertainty.
Mahish iterates the question of morality on a spectrum, where the Mahish are not pointedly ‘good’ or ‘bad’, nor are the humans that resist them. It depicts passivity, and exercising free will in pockets of grey. Mahish effectively delivers its social commentary using the conduits of mythology and folklore to incite discourse around contagion-like philosophies rendered unquestionable by majoritarian opinion.
Third Space Collective have put up sold out shows in Delhi, and will be returning with Mahish again in December.
Text Nandini Chand