Home Chennai East Coast Now, a residential workshop in Pondicherry for Shakespeare enthusiasts

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Theatre enthusiasts will explore the many facets of the Bard, courtesy a British Council workshop in Pondicherry

About 450 years later, William Shakespeare continues to inspire the art milieu in the country.  Right from Bollywood films —think Maqbool and Ram-Leela—to festivals like Hamara Shakespeare by Ranvir Shah from Chennai’s Prakriti Foundation, which  focuses on Shakespeare with an Indian twist, to critically-acclaimed shows like A Midsummer Night’s Dream commissioned by the British Council and created in India.  Now with Bring Home the Bard, a six-day residential course, British Council aims to give you a better understanding of Shakespeare’s work. In association with the Royal Shakespeare Company, a theatre company started in 1961, the workshop will be conducted by two of the Company’s members, Rebecca Gold and Chris White, from January 17 to 22, at Adishakti in Pondicherry.

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Open to interpretation
The British Council announced the event barely two weeks ago and they already have 70 registrations, of which only 26 will be chosen. According to Bhagirathi Raman, art manager, British Council, the workshop will introduce participants to core skills and strategies for unlocking Shakespeare’s plays for young people. “The course will also explore best practices in developing stand-alone workshops for young people as well as performing Shakespeare’s work with young performers. The course leaders are RSC Education Associate Practiti-oners as well as practising theatre directors,” she says.

What does the programme aim to do?
“To build on existing skills of the participants and better equip them to approach Shakespeare with the intent of teaching and working with children and young people, thus, making the text interesting, engaging, informative, and fun,” she says. However, she makes it clear that the programme is not for beginners. “We are looking only at theatre practitioners who are involved in drama education and work with young people and have been doing so for over a year,” she says, adding, “participants will get to learn to read scripts and, with this workshop, they will take up different plays like Romeo Juliet, Macbeth and Julius Caesar which belong to different genres. Also, participants will be given a certificate.”

Making the list
The Shakespeare workshop is one of its kind and is being held in Pondicherry for the first time. “We were looking for a residential space away from the hustle and bustle of the city where participants could immerse themselves in the workshop,” Raman says. Though there are several theatre workshops in the country—think Anupam Kher’s theatre group and Evam in Chennai—Raman promises this will be different. “For one, it isn’t focused on theatre practice but explores the periphery and possibilities of theatre, especially in education. Furthermore, the understanding would be that participants have background know-how of both theatre and working with young people, so this is an enhancement of skills in the drama education forte,” she sums up.

Breaking Bard
Shekinah Jacob, a theatre director, feels a Shakespeare workshop is essential. “Shakespeare is timeless and he has laid the fundamentals for good playwriting.” Ranvir Shah, from Prakriti Foundation, says, “Shakespeare is relevant across cultures. He brings us so many stories based on relationships. He is universal.”

The workshop costs Rs 3,000. At Adishakti theatre, Pondicherry. Details: britishcouncil.in/events/bring-home-bard

— Mrinalini Sundar

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