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A message on women empowerment

K. Santhosh

Sharon Pollock's play staged

THRISSUR: Was Lizzie Borden guilty? The Massachusetts community asked this question at the turn of the 19th century when a girl was accused of killing her stepmother and father. The trial had attracted wide media attention, but the crime was never solved.

When Canadian dramatist Sharon Pollock wrote `Blood Relations', a play based on the incident, Lizzie Borden achieved iconic status. Many described Borden as an early feminist. They saw the murder she committed as an act of self-preservation, an attempt to escape from abusive situations.

The play, which shows why the 20th century women's movement was inevitable, was staged by students at Calicut University's School of Drama in Thrissur on Wednesday. According to Ramachandran Mokeri, director of the School of Drama, the play was being staged in Kerala for the first time. "It is an important play because it raises serious questions. It is not a mere murder mystery," says Mr. Mokeri.

The play was staged in English and directed by Rajesh Chavakkad. The cast comprised Rajesh Navath, Feroze Khan, Martin T. Sebastian, Athira, Abheesh, R.S. Malu, Vinu Joseph and Sandeep Jayaraj.

"The play appealed to me as it had a clear message of women's empowerment," says Mr. Rajesh Chavakkad. There is a disarming simplicity about the text.

"Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother forty whacks, when the job was nicely done, she gave her father forty-one," Ms. Pollock writes. The play unfolds through the interaction between Lizzie and her actress friend. Ms. Pollock's primary concern is not whether Lizzie is guilty. Instead, the playwright seeks to explore the status of women in the 19th century through the experiences of Lizzie and other characters.

"The ideological issues raised by `Blood Relations' is relevant to this day. The play should receive more attention in Kerala," says Mr. Mokeri.

The play had triggered a controversy when a foreign TV channel decided to "drop the play and develop its own script." Ms. Pollock had sued the channel and the case was eventually settled out of court.

Despite the relevance of its theme, the play has been criticised for being verbose. The New York Times wrote: "A blue pencil will not be enough to edit this script -- it's a job that cries out for an axe."

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