Several colleges presented a complete theatre production to win the Airtel Theatricals - Shakespeare in 30 Minutes contest

I was at the Museum Theatre for ‘Airtel Theatricals: Shakespeare in 30 Minutes', a state-level inter-collegiate competition aimed at bringing the best of amateur theatre to a fresh, young audience. Not only did participants have to produce their own Shakespeare-inspired plays, but they were also equipped to market their plays and raise funds for their productions. As each college took stage, it drew its own flavoured audience and energy.

The show begins…

Sastra University put on an eerie adaptation of Shakespeare's “Julius Caesar” that left the audience slightly bemused and amused at the same time. Their interpretation seemed to be more inspired by a Stephen King novel than Shakepeare. Caesar's conspirators took on new avatars as talking Scarecrows whose job was to protect the crops at all costs, even from the poor Indian farmer who was to harvest it. They were followed by Easwari Engineering College who performed an uninspiring spoof of “Romeo and Juliet”. Shakespeare's wit and charm had been reduced to crude toilet humour and bad acting.

Next was Sriram Engineering College who did a brilliant mime of “Macbeth”. The wonderful choreography and music, teamed with a brilliant performance, had the crowd asking for more till the very end. The mimes were their own props and at frequent intervals took on various roles in the play at random. They created a bridge between “Macbeth” and the contemporary world, connecting universal themes of corruption, power and politics to our lives today.

Enter Loyola College. The crowd poured in and Loyola received praise for their creative marketing campaign and their turn out. Loyola was perhaps a victim of their own success, as the huge crowd that cheered and giggled at the most acute stimuli often drowning out the performance on stage. They chose a stereotypical Indian filmmaker's perspective on “Romeo and Juliet”, but were caught somewhere between being true to the original and an Indianised spoof.

Rome made way for the modern music industry in MCC's interpretation of “Julius Caesar”. The Caesarians, a band led by Caesar, is thrown into chaos when Caesar is accidentally killed by members of his band, Cassius and Brutus. Amusingly, their sets seemed cursed by the ghost of Caesar, as tables used as props buckled under the weight of the characters. All this, however, was taken in good humour by the cast and the audience.

Finally, at 7:00 p.m., SDNB Vaishnav, an all-girls college, who were taking part in a theatrical for the first time, started with a presentation of their preparation and marketing in action. Their Tamil adaptation of “Macbeth” was intricate and well scripted, but tediously long and laborious. The characters were well propped and the play was on most occasions, well choreographed.

Winner

K. Balachander, director, producer and screenwriter, was the Chief Guest for the prize distribution.

SDNB Vaishnav took the Star Performer award for their valiant effort. Sneha from Sastra University won Best Actor for her role in “Julius Caesar” and Loyola managed Best Theatrepreneur for their creative marketing strategy. But clearly, the night belonged to Madras Christian College and Sriram Engineering College, the former bagging both Best Play and Best Director (Samuktha PC) and the latter winning the ‘Airtel Theatricals' 2010 trophy.

Varun is a III Year student of B.Sc. Visual Communication at Madras Christian College.

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