Tadpole and Wide Aisle get set for “The Winter’s Tale”.
Never mind that it is spring. Leontes and Polixenes will walk the grounds of Zorba the Budha, in Ghitorni, this weekend and the next. As the Sicilian prince Mamillius says in the play, “A sad tale’s best for winter: I have one of sprites and goblins.”
Delhi’s Tadpole Repertory and Wide Aisle Productions are presenting one of Shakespeare’s later works The Winter’s Tale. The play, which has melodrama, romance and comedy, will be in English and Hindustani. Directed by Neel Chaudhuri— a MetroPlus Playwright Award winner— and Anirudh Nair, it is an environmental play in which the audience moves with the sets.
Tadpole is known for its work with original scripts and Wide Aisle for its engagement with Shakespeare. They have an ensemble cast, that is, the 12 main characters have equally long roles. Actors also additionally play the roles of other minor characters.
The lines in English are Shakespeare’s original script, while those in Hindustani have been translated into classical poetic language by Tanzil Rahman. Explains Neel, “The first half, in Sicilia, has a court scene and is very melodramatic. Here we stick to English. In the second half, in Bohemia, the characters speak Hindustani. It played out very naturally and we decided to go with it.”
Anirudh explains that instead of understanding characters through their histories and academic reading, actors approached them through physical theatre, that is, using the body, its physiology to interpret the lines of the character. This method— The Psychological Gesture— was pioneered by Russian dramatist Michael Chekov. “The immediacy of the moment is exploited in its full richness. The end result, even if not overtly physical, gets a visceral response from the audience,” hopes Anirudh.
There is also live music and acrobatic movements in play, something that Anirudh says he learnt under British Kalaripayattu practitioner Phillip Zarrilli at the University of Exeter.
The reason for performing it at Zorba is its regulated wilderness and fascinating terrain of ponds, hillocks and undergrowth. The sets and lighting are minimal and spread over a half kilometre path. For the Sicilia scenes, designer Madhav Raman has created sets out of starched fabric and the Bohemia sets are in bamboo.
“Sicilia has court intrigue and fragile egos. The structures in fabric are prismatic, fragile yet with a hidden violence to it. Bohemia is robust. We’ve used the existing presence of bamboo along with our own language of bamboo with robust detailing,” says Raman, who had done the sets for an NSD play— Tenderness— last year.
At the time of filing this report, it was still unclear how the costumes would turn out. They would definitely not belong to a contemporary world, “a look not immediately identifiable,” says Anirudh. Yet the directors intend not to locate the play in any specific time or location, hence the brain raking over the costumes.