A combination of diverse theatrical styles with a single-minded focus on riotous fun and laughter.
The Company Theatre from Mumbai performed their version of ‘Twelfth Night’ in Hindi as ‘Barvi Raat’ at the World Shakespeare Festival at the Globe Theatre in London. On their return, the same play was staged as ‘Piya Beherupiya’ in Mumbai.
The production combines diverse performance and theatrical styles with a single minded focus on extracting fun and laughter of the riotous kind from one of Shakespeares’s best loved comedies.
The parallels with Bollywood style drama, which mash together a few familiar themes with some very broad comedy, are clear to see. The familiar themes of mistaken identities, sending of letters, disguise and miscommunications from Shakespeare’s comedies are recast in this adaptation aided by the uninhibited high spirits of the North Indian nautanki and layered with commedia dell’ arte style improvisations using stock character types, giving the whole a feel of a revue whose characters are thinly sketched and overplayed.
Directed by Atul Kumar this adaptation is written by Amitosh Nagpal who also plays the small part of Sebastian, while the meatier one of his twin sister Viola cross dressing as Cesario is neatly performed by Geetanjali Kulkarni.
Following in the footsteps of recent high decibel but solid entertainers emerging from Mumbai with actors who can sing rather well on stage, ‘Piya Beherupiya’ too has a great deal of singing on stage.
However Mansi Multani’s usually subdued charm and Geetanjali Kulkarni’s self assurance as well as the sub plot involving Malvolio and the domestic servants is excessively cranked up and makes for a very loud and broadly performed play that is also very high on bluster.
Neha Saraf’s north Indian nautanki version turns one of Shakespeare’s best written fools, the clever and insightful Feste, into Phool Singh who speaks a dialect of Hindi with a nasal twang.
Although culturally quite distant from the town of Illyria, Saraf comes closest to invoking the spirit of the play with its mingling of anarchy, caprice and an acute underlying sense of insanity. Throughout the play the actors use the folk musical styles of north India (as wells as Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh) to play to each other. They are encouraged and commented upon by a band of extras who occupy the far end of the stage and keep the high spirits going by reacting to the action, joining in for various impromptu jigs whenever an extra dose of energy is needed.
Bottomline: A feel of a revue whose characters are thinly sketched and overplayed.
When: July 21-22 and July 28-29
Where: Prithvi Theatre, Mumbai