Crossing Over: First Drop Theatre’s anthology turns the spotlight on palliative care

Written and directed by Bejoy Balagopal, Crossing Over is set to be staged in Bengaluru this and the next weekend

4 min readApr 9, 2024
A scene from the play

By Reema Gowalla

The power of performing arts in promoting people’s physical and mental well-being have often been discussed, but rarely do we get to see plays that are centred on palliative care. Through their latest production, titled Crossing Over, Bengaluru-based group First Drop Theatre makes an attempt to touch upon conversations that happen (or fail to happen) during the final days of a patient’s life. The anthology draws inspiration from a compilation of real-life incidents, published by Karunashraya — Bangalore Hospice Trust. The shows are scheduled to take place at three venues in the city on April 13–14 and on April 20.

Written and directed by Bejoy Balagopal, Crossing Over comprises three stories — Bonds That Bind, Rainbow of Emotions and Prem & Prem — that are based on different characters in the book. Some six patients are covered within these three short stories. Meanwhile, the fourth piece titled Shadow and Light — is about a personal account shared by Bejoy’s friend, who lost his partner to cancer. The cast of the play includes actors Sangeeta Kalia, Durga Venkatesan, Srilalitha Pamidipati, Snehil Basoya, Thulasi Raj, Vinay Kumar, Isha Khatana and Bejoy. The project is conceptualised and designed by Radhika Jain.

The anthology focusses on caregivers

During the Covid-19 pandemic, First Drop Theatre conducted listening circles with frontline workers, while they also organised a playback theatre series, called Care-Tharsis, that focussed on caregivers. Giving an insight into how Crossing Over began, Bejoy told TheatreRoom, “In some sense, we wanted to continue working in and around the field of healthcare. This isn’t the first time we are collaborating with the Bangalore Hospice Trust. In the past, we have done plays for their nurses, aiming at showcasing their hard work as caregivers, while there have also been shows that spotlight the plight of the family members of terminally ill patients. Thus, when Crossing Over was published, we broached the idea of turning parts of the book into a play. The chapters largely consisted of their own experiences as staff members and counsellors at the facility; recollections of conversations with patients across age groups at different stages of their treatment. The script also sheds light on the emotional attachment that caregivers had with some patients, as well as the confusions and dilemmas they faced during that journey.” Despite the play being an adaptation, the makers have ensured that narrative and characters remain true to the real-life incidents that they rely on.

Radhika Jain and Bejoy Balagopal

The play strives to decode a slew of notions — “When life reaches that moment of crossing over, what does one go with? What conversations does one have with oneself and others during that time? Why are conversations about death important? And why we as a society shouldn’t shy away from these”. Crossing Over brings the focus back on the topic of death, exemplifying why conversations about departure from life are considered a taboo. It asks questions like — “What does a family go through? And are doctors equipped to handle sensitive communication?”.

Each of these short stories run for about 15 minutes each, following which there’s a playback theatre performance. That’s “intended to be a container for holding the emotions generated among the audience members”. Elaborating on the same, the writer-director said, “The 30-minute playback intervention encourages people to share whatever that they’re sitting with. During our previous shows, many have opened up about their personal experiences — conversations that they failed to have with their loved ones before they passed away.”

A snapshot from one of the short stories

The set design and sound execution for Crossing Over is done by Naman Roy, while Deepthi Bhaskar is in charge of music and sound design. Bejoy has also taken care of light design, along with Imran Ahmed (light execution). Vocals are by Deepthi Bhaskar and Durga, together with Anirudh Rao (on flute) and Alok Pandurangi (on the guitar).

Catch the play Crossing Over happening at Vyoma ArtSpace and Studio Theatre on April 13, at Medai — The Stage Bengaluru on April 14 and at Shoonya — Centre for Art and Somatic Practices on April 20. All shows are scheduled to take place at 5.30pm. You can book your tickets here.