With Ratan Thiyam’s celebrated production showing today, theatre personalities share their favourite adaptations of the bard’s tragedy
When we sell Shake-speare as just Shake-speare, the result is often lukewarm. “But when an Othello becomes an Omkara or a Macbeth a Maqbool, there is wide spread appreciation,” says Dushyant Guna-sekaran of Crea-Shakthi. Celebrated theatre director Ratan Thiyam’s Manipuri version of Macbeth is the latest adaptation to come to the city. While it stays true to its themes of greed, deceit and ambition, the interpretation is unique—Macbeth is the name of a dangerous epidemic. With such an interesting premise, we thought we’d ask some of our own theatre personalities to share their favourite adaptation.
Gowri Ramnarayan, playwright
Thiyam’s production is a visual spectacle. I am always filled with a sense of wonder. The stylised Manipuri dialogues become a sound component, the music—with indigenous instruments—highlights the eeriness of the play, and the props—from blankets to reed mats—tell a story. I never go for the acting, but rather for the spectacular lighting, design and sheer originality.
Karthik Kumar, Evam
MacHomer, a monoact by Rick Miller, has to be the most memorable. Imagine one guy blending Macbeth with The Simpsons, even as he plays all the characters. It’s a very sardonic take. What starts off as a farce turns into something else because when comic characters do tragedy it makes you laugh first and then think. Theatrically speaking, it was brilliant. If I were to do a Macbeth, I’d look at theatrical grandness, the tragedy, the setting. But MacHomer gave me such a different perspective.
Ranvir Shah, Prakriti
Last month, I watched Theatre du Soleil’s Macbeth in Paris. The four-hour French adaptation had Nirupama Nityanandan (from Chennai) playing Lady Macbeth. It is a brilliant adaptation, with great production value—staging Macbeth in a contemporary setting but with the same crazed, power-hungry individuals caught up in their ambitions. I was on the edge of my seat even though I don’t follow French too well. The other memorable one was an abstract of Macbeth, performed as part of the Humara Shakespeare Festival three years ago, by koodiyattam actor Margi Madhu. He enacted the sequence where Macbeth comes back victorious from the war, but in the koodiyattam setting. It was interesting to see Shakespeare done it this format and have it work so beautifully.
Dushyant Gunasekaran, Crea-Shakthi
More than the different versions I have seen, an adaptation I was recently part of really impressed me. In the first week of this month, a mime of Macbeth was performed to commemorate ‘Vietnam Veedu’ Sundaram’s 60 years on stage. It was something unthinkable because usually if you are selling Shakespeare, you are selling his words. So even though my part was small—I was asked to write the dialogues for the interludes where the characters of Shakespeare and his wife have conversations—I was really interested in taking up the project.
—Surya Praphulla Kumar