The purpose of the design was to create a space where the audience and performer becomes one category - the participant and experience an encounter - unusual and unlikely. The performance space in Delhi was created in the library of Max Muller Bhavan to 'unfold an unlikely dialogue'. The production had four slots, expanding over three days, for different themes of conversation—Time, Crisis, Beauty and Death. Only twenty participants were allowed for the Encounter.
Interestingly the performance space slowly unfolded as the participants started the conversations with their counterparts sitting at a cafe in Mannheim. The participants were given minimum texts to start a conversation. Each of them had a few cards with minimum printed text related to the themes. The participants were expected to discuss on these cards for a final rejection or acceptance of the cards.
The melee of ideas and deliberations as conversations rolled on through headphones, as each participant unaware of the fellow participant of the same space, created a space of orchestrated responses of impulses and interactions. The whole space, thus, turned out to be creating a unique performance text and space of its own kind. The participants and their counterparts, immersed in the dialogue of rejection and acceptance, gave birth to an experiential space shared by different cultures, different individuals, and different ideas - distanced by 6134 kilometres yet connected through an ‘Encounter’ performance.
However, the entire performance was captured and there was a big projection screen placed inside the library which showed the performance-space and participants at Mannheim. Oroon Das, one of the participants of one of the slots said, 'It was entirely unexpected what I encountered this evening from 8 to 9 pm with Peter, a 51-year-old pastor from Mannheim.
The appearance of cameras whimsically witnessing our conversation, its sudden muting at the end of the hour, I have to admit, left me disoriented and feeling instrumentalised. ‘Like him, another participant Aditi too felt that these experiential ‘conversations’ and design gave a different understanding of performance. Like her, Priyanshu a first year student of Delhi University also felt that time and space also got a new interpretation besides the Aristotelian understanding of Three Unities in a performance.
Arnika Ahldag, the dramaturge and collaborator, expressed that Encounter 6134 team was bit sceptical about the experiment in the beginning but all the four sessions were well received. She was happy to witness how the participants responded spontaneously to the design and concept.
Encounter 6134-Mannheim/Delhi has definitely left the participants surprised with this new concept, and added a new dimension to the definition of performance.
Indubitably, this production of Amitesh has opened up new avenues for ‘conversations’ in theatre and performance studies.