Prakash Belawadi’s new play offers a tribute to the playwright Peter Shaffer.
Among the many high-profile losses this year, the name of Peter Shaffer, the English playwright and screenwriter, may seem underplayed. Shaffer, who passed away this June, is known for plays like Equus (1973) and Amadeus (1979). Theatre personality Prakash Belawadi thought this was the best time to bring to stage his 1964 play, The Royal Hunt of the Sun, which is about the Spanish conquest of the last Inca king.
Bengaluru has previously staged and hailed many of Shaffer’s plays, both in Kannada and English. “I feel this is one of his plays that is relevant to modern India,” says Belawadi. The play revolves around a Spanish explorer, Francisco Pizarro, who has captured the Inca chief Atahuallpa, and strikes a deal to free him in exchange for gold. But the two characters develop a complex relationship of admiration and even friendship.
“It deals with colonialism, patriotism and faith,” Belawadi explains. All three elements are questions that today’s society asks its citizens. The dilemma of what is expected from us, our dharma or faith, and from our State, as opposed to what is the right thing to do, is the
central theme of the play. It also focuses on the rapacious destruction of resources.
Although a faithful adaptation of the original, Belawadi has made some tweaks of his own. “Being a play of an older era, all the parts were only male characters, and the only women in the play are two non-speaking concubines,” he says. Not happy with such a depiction, Belawadi has cast a number of women playing the role of the Incas. The play stars many established city-based actors. Ashok Mandanna, whom Belawadi regards as the foremost theatre actor in Indian English theatre, plays the role of Pizarro. Other actors include Bimal Desai, Nakul Bhalla, Shashank Purushottam, Divya Raghu-ram and Naveen Kumar J.December 9 -11. At Ranga Shankara, JP Nagar, 7.30 pm. Tickets (`200) on bookmyshow.com
— Anagha M