Winner of The Hindu MetroPlus Playwright Award 2012, Romeo and Juliet — No Strings Attached tells how puppets live life their way if they were to cut loose from their strings

What would happen if puppets were to cut themselves free and do as they wish? That is what happens in Prashanth Kumar Nair’s Romeo and Juliet — No Strings Attached. The play, set in a puppet theatre, tells of puppets who have been playing Romeo and Juliet night after night. Even when they cut themselves free, they still play Romeo and Juliet as it is the only thing they know; however, they play it their way — a wild ride through contemporary India stuffed with pop culture references.

Presented by the Bangalore-based Tahatto, Romeo and Juliet — No Strings Attached is the winner of The Hindu Metroplus Playwright Award 2012. The 100-minute play is in English with a smattering of Hindi and Tamil.

While broadly sticking to the original text, the play shoots off in tangents, all the while playing on the themes of choice, freedom, strings, restrictions and decisions. The cast includes Rijul Ray as Champak/Romeo, Kalyani Nair as Juliet, Christopher Avinash as Stringeri, Shashank Purushotham as Nautanki and Anshul Pathak as Panauti.

Prashanth is on a sabbatical from his advertising job to concentrate on theatre. He runs Tahatto with five theatre enthusiasts. The 31-year-old’s first foray as a playwright was with Full Meals — a set of 10-minute scripts and his script The Amateur Playwright for the Short+Sweet, 10-minute play festival won him the people’s choice award.

Venue: Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall, Harrington Road, Chetpet.

Date and Time: August 18, 7.30 p.m.

Director’s Cut

Prashanth Kumar Nair

When we had talked earlier, you spoke of preferring to direct the play because there might be a disconnect between what you intended and what a director might understand. How did that pan out?

It was a good decision to direct. When we went on the floor, I realised there was some flab. I am open to evolution. We workshopped the play as I wanted actors to have the freedom of interpretation within the compound wall of the script. With their interpretation of characters, the actors brought in different accents… they brought in a lot to the characters.

Has the play turned out how you visualised it?

No, and it is a good thing, because otherwise it would have been a mechanical enterprise.

How difficult was it to let go of control of your writing?

It was tough to let go of my darlings if they didn’t work. But it was good to be part of the creative energy of the actors. The play is a collaborative effort not meant to be driven by a pirate commander. It has given me clarity on my strengths and weaknesses.

Can you tell us about the workshop?

We went through a silambattam workshop, which a master from Chennai was gracious enough to conduct over two weekends for us. We wanted to see if an Indian art form would fit in. We toyed with the idea of kalari… Since there was a mention of swords we thought silambattam with its sticks would be a good fit. The workshop helped the actors zone in. In a comedy, there is a chance for the actors to play to the gallery. The workshop helped them stay focussed on the fact that it is a comedy and a little more.

Can you comment on the music of the play?

Chris Avinash of the band Retronome brought a special flavour to the play. Apart from one original song, the others are adaptations. For instance, when Romeo sees Juliet for the first time, Chris plays (music is live) a version of ‘Pehla nasha.’ Music acts as a memory trigger. When you hear the tune, you remember what you felt when you first heard that song.

What can the audience look forward to?

A fast-paced, entertaining play. I didn’t want it to be pretentious. What the audience will see is an enjoyable play, powered by genuine effort.

The Schedule:

Aug 10: How to Skin a Giraffe (Perch, Chennai)

Aug 11: A Walk in the Woods (Motley, Mumbai)

Aug 15: The Tale of Haruk (Performance Group Tuida, Korea)

Aug 16: Circus (MacTrics, Chennai)

Aug 17: Some Times (Akvarious Productions, Mumbai)

Aug 18: Romeo and Juliet - No Strings Attached (Tahatto, Bangalore)

Venue: Sir Mutha Venkatasubba Rao Concert Hall, Harrington Road, Chetpet

Time: 7.30 p.m.

For the detailed schedule of MPTF 2013 in all five cities, click here.


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