Bard's Twelfth Night gets a musical avatar

DRAMATIC EXECUTION

Bard's Twelfth Night gets a musical avatar

What if a character during a play reveals to the audience the entire story and spots a blank look on the faces sitting in front? Well if the play is Piya Behrupia and the actor-scriptwriter is Amitosh Nagpal, then sitting among the audience, be prepared to hear, “Auntyji ye TV serial nahi hai Shakespeare hai...” 

Inside a houseful Kamani Auditorium, the play was recently staged as part of Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META) and went on to receive the award for the best play. 

No doubt, it is the effort of the ace director-producer Atul Kumar (The Company Theatre) which makes this Hindi adaptation of the classic Shakespearean comedy, Twelfth Night, a must watch.

But it is the translation and quirky dialogues that provide the foundation to the script and make it a popular play. The cherry on the top is the cast which is carefully chosen to provide their perspective to the characters and make them endearing.

Be it the hyperbole in Punjabi accent of the protagonist Olivia (Mansi Multani) or the amusing antics of her uncle Toby (Gagan Riar), each actor makes their presence felt. The theme of ‘uncertainty of gender’ is given due respect and portrayed through the character of Viola (played by Geetanjali Kulkarni with panache) who disguises herself to present a young man Cesario.

A special mention for the actor-costume designer Neha Saraf who enthralls all with her Clown(ing) act!

How Cesario meets Olivia for the sake of his master Duke Orsino and, Olivia falls in love with Cesario, is already known to the world in the words of Willian Shakespeare, but Atul Kumar chooses to present it in North Indian Nautanki-style.

The presence of musicians on stage –  who pay obeisance to a vivid portrait of Shakespeare in the backdrop, and then bring into use a number of interesting instruments to form an original score that accommodates the song and dance sections.  

More than the story, it is the comic timing that leaves the unsuspecting audience in a state of delicious unpreparedness all through the performance. Leave apart any thoughts of languidness, the performances make you sit on the edge as one never knows when an actor would jump off the stage and start conversing with the audience.

This ‘audience interaction’ interspersed with melodies from Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, just don’t let one stop laughing!

It is hilarious to witness a ‘jagarata scene’ in a Shakespearean comedy –  something that is difficult to imagine even in the wildest of dreams. But it is this unconventionality that imparts dramatic overtones to Piya Behrupia.

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