When Romeo became a clown

When Romeo became a clown

Theatre troupes and plays are available by the dozens in Delhi these days. But Delhiites got to see something different recently. Drama in the form of clowning: an old mode of theatre hardly explored in India thanks to its non-resonance with our traditions and the difficulty in its execution.

CEVA Drama Repertory Company – a well-known theatre troupe in Chandigarh, Punjab, recently staged Romeo, Juliet and Seven Clowns – an adaptation of the Shakespearean classic in clown theatre. A fresh take on probably the world’s most well-known play, it surely enthused everyone present at the India International Centre.

CEVA Repertory was started in Punjab 25 years ago by theatre veteran Gurcharan Singh Chani. As a legacy of its community and activist theatre background, they have never really delved in classics. They have evolved their own storylines drawing from the experiences of their troupe members, and rather been experimenting with various theatre forms of late.

The director of Romeo, Juliet and Seven Clowns, Sukhmani Kohli, further informs us, “I recently learnt this beautiful mode of theatre – clowning – from a Portugal practitioner, and we decided to produce a play employing it. Clowning is a very personal, exploratory form. When doing it, you have to shed all your masks, inhibitions – of being ridiculed, of failing. It’s like falling in love. Hence we decided to use a love story as a base and all of us zeroed on Romeo Juliet.”

“It is, no doubt, a universal romantic story but since most of our actors come from non-English backgrounds, they felt the need to connect with it through a different language. And that language became Bulleh Shah’s poetry. So even though we have used the original storyline, the Victorian dialogues are replaced by Bulleh Shah’s poetry to convey the emotions.”

And hence emerged Romeo, Juliet and Seven Clowns: the amalgam of a Shakespearean play, clowning and Bulleh Shah’s melodic verse. It starts with a lot of clowning or ‘fooling’ around. The actors – all dressed as clowns – sing, have a mock fight and play. Then enters Juliet – played by a bearded man – and Romeo falls in love with her.

There is also the balcony scene. Juliet climbs a steel ladder and Romeo proposes to her. Then Romeo ends up killing Juliet’s cousin and loses his ‘clownliness’ that is innocence symbolised by the red bulb on his nose. Ultimately, the two die and the story is complete.
Of course, it is peppered with Bulleh Sha’s evergreen songs like Ishq bulleh ne nachawe yaar to nachna painda hai, aukhe pained lamiyan mein rawa ishq diya and ishq di naviya navi bahar. All in all a fresh new experience.
DHNS

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