Dir. Andy Arnold, Tron Theatre, 10th – 13th May
From the second Ramesh Meyyappan walked onstage, his presence made the space come alive. I was transported into the obsessively monotonous life of Joe Kilter, who saw his world turned upside down after receiving a termination letter.
There were no spoken words in Off Kilter, but the incredible physicality of Ramesh Meyyappan told a funny yet heart-wrenching story far better than any traditional dialogue would have. Throughout the performance, I caught myself marveling at the precision of his movements, and trying to figure out how certain limbs could possibly be moved in such a way. Most impressive was without a doubt Joe Kilter’s discovery of multiple alarm clocks around his apartment. Each clock appeared suddenly, causing his body to tremble with a different frequency for each device. This process, met with roaring laughter from the audience, displayed the extent of Meyyappan’s body control. His ability to synchronise two opposing states of mind, as one hand tapped his shoulder and encouraged him to open the termination letter while the other yanked his head back to ignoring it, was inspiring.
The entirety of the play was based on these dualities, as the endearing routine of the employee descended into sadness and chaos. The humour and magic which punctuated the show, such as inexplicable apparitions of pencils and termination letters to haunt Joe Kilter, offered much needed solace from the almost oppressive depiction of a man trapped by time. Some moments dragged on uncomfortably, creating almost unbearable slowness and repetition which, coupled with the clock lurking above the stage, reinforced the entrapment of the character.
While certain sequences of distraught pacing would have been as potent if somewhat shorter, they made me question my reactions in the instances when I was laughing. I found myself gradually closer to tears, as Meyyappan forced me to confront how stuck his character was, and to a certain extent, we all are. Leaving the theatre, I could not help but overhear an animated conversation between two members of the audience: “I could see it, I could see myself in that life”. And that was exactly it. In a set whose simplicity strengthened the seamless apparitions and minute physical movements of the performer, Meyyappan expressed powerful and sensitive observations of human life which moved me to my core.