Bangalore Mirror | The spaces between words

The common theme of a long marriage suffering from a communication breakdown is treated with deft humour in Shivani Tibrewala’s worthy effort

– Nirmala Ravindran

Whatever You Say, written and directed by Shivani Tibrewala is an existential play, but thankfully, without the accompanying angst. Pegged as a “funny, honest play about a couple who one day discover that they have run out of conversation,” Whatever You Say deals in wit and wisdom, both with words and without.

X and Y have been a couple for far too long, and have reached a point in their lives where they realise they have absolutely nothing to say to each other. Sounds familiar? Whatever You Say might well be an echo of what goes on in millions of lives (and homes) around us.

Thus rendered meaningless as a couple, the duo tries to rediscover and find some semblance of meaning in their existence—mainly by bickering, laughing and fighting. There is great symbolism in the writing, even if unintentional, and the script harks back to other famous duos that have dealt with similar timeless issues in the past and been thus immortalised on stage — Samuel Beckett’s tramps Didi and Gogo in Waiting for Godot and the Old Man and Woman in Eugene Ionesco’s Chairs making perfect predecessors.

There is a third element in Whatever You Say, a ‘thought collector’, the character Z, whose job it is to collect thoughts that nobody wants anymore. Z enters the domestic scene and the problem arises when Z develops burnout and starts setting the thoughts free.

That’s when we lose clarity about what is said and what remains unsaid. It is through these innocuous circumstances that the couple finally discovers that even as their lives together are rendered meaningless, their lives without each other would be even more so. And as they bicker, laugh and fight while feeding pigeons, they find that they have turned into pigeons themselves.
Whatever you say deals with questions of identity and existence peppered with a generous dose of humour. It promises to be a class act thanks to its lead actors. When it opened in Mumbai it was performed by Mona Ambegaonkar and Tom Alter who sparkled as the couple looking for meaning in their spent lives. The current production stars Tom Alter, Dipika Roy and Shivani Tibrewala and comes to Jagriti as the third play in this year’s theatre season after Dead Man’s Cellphone and Ms. Meena.

Tibrewala’s company No Licence Yet has been producing theatre that is relevant to our times, where the idea is not just to entertain but also to enrich and engage the audience through a theatre experience.

As an added treat for theatre viewers, Jagriti has scheduled a Close Encounter with Tom Alter on Sunday, October 20, at 11am. A veteran with over 175 films, 20 theatre productions and over 50 television series to his credit, Alter is a writer, journalist, poet and Urdu expert besides being a novelist and a cricket scholar. Catch him and quiz him on the various hats he wears on his decorous head. And don’t forget to watch the play that tells you that “you can’t win, no matter what you say….or don’t say. But you might as well enjoy the ride while it lasts.”

Read as it appeared in Bangalore Mirror here.


Jagriti is a Performance Arts space dedicated to Theatre, Music, Dance and Comedy. Founded in 2011 by Arundhati and Jagdish Raja, the space has hosted several productions from India and around the world. A 200-seat theatre, built around a full-thrust stage, it is fully equipped to cater to both artistes and audience. The main stage is designed for intimate performances, with adjoining spaces for informal lectures and gatherings, and an attached restaurant- 'The Fat Chef'. Jagriti is owned and operated by the not-for-profit ART Foundation, a registered charitable trust.

The Rooftop - above the main auditorium is an open-to-sky space with a staging area that can accommodate about 50 people. A raised and walled off platform can work as a perfect area for puppet theatre. The Rooftop has a restroom and a pantry. 

The Terrace - alongside the auditorium, the Terrace can accommodate about 20 people as an informal gathering area.

Lumbini - extending out from the foyer, Lumbini has a stage and an open-to-sky terraced space for about 80 people.