Celebrate Shakespeare’s 400th death anniversary with plays, quizzes, film screenings and more this week.
It’s a big deal and we are not even giving you the option ‘to celebrate or not to celebrate’. April 23 marks William Shakespeare’s 400th death anniversary, and over 140 countries are paying homage. In the UK, while The Royal Shakespeare Company is putting up plays in original form, in London, you can catch 37 specially-made 10-minute films that will be playing on loop along a 2.5 mile route of the Thames. In the US, the first printed collection of the Bard’s plays (from The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC) are going on a travelling exhibition, while New Orleans is celebrating with a jazz funeral. Closer to home, we have screenings and plays, and even some discussions. Find out more.
It’s a week of celebrations at the British Council, with much of the activities geared towards children. “Kids today need to be introduced to Shakespeare. So we have a drawing contest (till Thursday) along with online quizzes and crosswords that they can do (mail firstname.lastname@example.org and a link will be sent to those interested),” says Aparna Bhattacharya, senior manage operations (library). “On April 30, we will also have a theatre workshop for teenagers (10 am to 1 pm), where our trainer Premila Lowe will take them through how to read the dramatist in the original, with writing exercises to see how his works can be interpreted in a modern context and short enactments of pieces from his plays,” she adds. For adults, there is the screening of Maxine Peake’s Hamlet (tomorrow, from 4 pm), a BAFTA-nominated film, “which is a very different interpretation”. It will be followed by a discussion. Free entry. Till April 30, at the British Council. Details: britishcouncil.in
The lights dim, the actors take their last bow, the audience departs, and the theatre is shrouded in darkness. But what if there were a spirit of theatre that came alive in the wee hours and enacted what it thought was good or bad. That was the springboard for actor-director Salim Ghouse’s tribute to the bard, Shakespearewallah. “Shakespeare is dying, no one wants to learn his lines and actors have ADD. But I didn’t want my love for him to die. So I took seven-eight of my favourite characters—from Othello and Richard III to King Lear and Prospero—and brought them to life through the bilious ramblings and self-deprecating humour of an old clown whom no one appreciates (a concept he adapted from Anton Chekhov’s short play, Swan Song),” explains the creative director of Mumbai-based theatre group, The Phoenix Players. A year after he premiered it at Prithvi Theatre, he took the play to the 2014 Fringe Theatre festival in Stratford-Upon-Avon, where it was hailed as a “one-man virtuoso piece”. “Shakespeare wrote for actors and I feel if you speak his lines well, people will understand. In fact, the playwright’s work is even more relevant today than it ever was. Connect Hamlet’s lines with the political scenario in India now and you will know what I mean,” he shares. As is his wont, Ghouse does not use sets in his 70-minute solo performance, but he does employ music—“two lovely bits, with Spanish guitar that has a touch of Sufi and the gypsy”—and mime. “Shakespeare can set you off on a great journey. The play flits between life and art, questioning contemporary problems through lines written over 400 years ago. And I used the clown because he is always one of the most intelligent characters in the Bard’s plays,” he concludes.
Tomorrow-Sunday, 4 pm and 7 pm, at Alliance Francaise. Rs 200 onwards. Details: 28279803
What started out as a commissioned project by Globe Theatre in 2012, has evolved into one of the most enjoyable works on Shakespeare that we’ve ever seen. Director Atul Kumar’s Piya Behrupiya (which shed its boring title, Twelfth Night in Hindi, soon after it returned from the UK) is a Hindi translation of the comedy, but with a very desi, even Bollywood, touch. “As we were exploring it, we thought of working with the nautanki style. And once the Globe performance was over, we unleashed hell on it—adding characters, adapting it to our scenario and editing out whole scenes (trimming it to 90 minutes from a whopping 210 minutes),” laughs Kumar. Though he’d brought the play to the city last year—when he was pleasantly surprised at how “everyone got every single joke made in Hindi”—he believes it will still surprise audiences. “Even after 150 shows, the play is dynamic. Since we will be in Chennai, the actors have lots of possibilities of using the local language and references. And my team improvises a lot, playing off the live audience,” says the artistic director of The Company Theatre in Mumbai, adding that there will be no sets and, in true nautanki style, all the actors will always be on stage. But it will have a lot of folk music from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh—covers of traditional songs and their compositions written and composedby the actors themselves.Sunday, at Phoenix MarketCity, from 7.30 pm. Rs 400 onwards. Details: in.bookmyshow.com
You don’t need to perform a Shakespearean play to honour the Elizabethan playwright. Director V Balakrishnan feels the best way to celebrate a good writer is with other good writing. “Shakespeare is an idol and we wanted to celebrate his death anniversary with good Indian writing. So we’ve picked plays in four languages: Hindi, English, Tamil and Hindustani,” he explains. Rashmi Rathi (tomorrow, 5.30 pm) is a poem written by Ramdhari Singh Dinkar. “It is Karna’s story from the Mahabharatha, but what is special is that it shows the man not as a loser, but as someone who accepts every moment as it is, and for whom victory and defeat are the same thing,” says Balakrishnan. The other plays are Amrapali (tomorrow, 7.30 pm), about the prettiest woman in Vaishali whose life changes when she meets Buddha; Solladi Sivashakthi (Sunday, 6 pm), a collection of four short stories written by Andal Priyadarshini that reflects on patriarchy and God; and Asghar (Sunday, 7.30 pm), a collection of 10 stories by Asghar Wajahat that takes a satiric look at our society, politics and culture. “We are performing Solladi Sivashakthi in a new form, as a one-woman play, because we wanted to explore it with a new idiom of dance and body movement, while Asghar will touch upon contemporary topics like female infanticide and the Hindu-Muslim conflict, but with satire and humour,” he states. At Spaces. Free entry. Details: 42158062
The Auroville Theatre Group is revisiting scenes from five of the Bard’s popular plays, including The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet. Also catch Foton’s (the theatre group from Bengaluru) performance of Macbeth. For some fun, there will be texts of scenes for anyone wanting to give acting a go, besides a sing-along and a quiz. Tomorrow, at Cripa, Auroville, from 7.30 pm. Details: 9486416173
Text: Surya Praphulla Kumar