MEMORABLE The play featured some good performances by the leading ladies

Hans Kaushik certainly wound up the charm at Alliance Francaise this week with his play performed by Stella Maris College. The all-female cast took on the roles of Shakespeare's leading ladies from timeless classics such as “Hamlet”, “Macbeth”, “Romeo and Juliet” and the likes as they all unassumingly find themselves thrown into the mix after the three witches from “Macbeth” inadvertently leave a ‘box of mysteries' open, from which they appeared. As the witches figure out how to undo this travesty, more and more characters emerge from the mystical abyss and come together to create some memorable interactions.

A miserable Ophelia is the first to emerge, heart-broken and aimless; the witches try everything, but not before a furious Beatrice from “Much Ado About Nothing” makes a short appearance and whisks one of the witches away with her. While the remaining witches attempt every known spell in the book to bring back their sister, a bizzare stream of myriad Shakespearean characters appear out of the box, making for conversations that range from the sinister, to the innocent, the hilarious to the philosophical as they vie with each other to offer the heartbroken Ophelia their advice. Should she return to Hamlet, the lover who seems to have betrayed her? Or, as Lady Macbeth (CEO of Lady Macbeth & Co., Mercenary Agency and Dealers in Weaponry) suggests, should she take revenge into her own hands.

The good

A notable performance was given by Lady Macbeth played by Merine Vincent who nudged the audience into a trance with her witty one-liners and stage presence. The script in itself was original to the play and well designed by its six contributors, all students of Stella Maris. Love, as with most of Shakespeare's work, was at the heart of this play, and was best expressed by Dhivya Gopalkrishnan who played a feeble Miranda who at some point repeatedly expressed her desire for a member of the audience, very convincingly. If only the poor lad had known, it was all just fine acting. Dhivya also comes into her own when she seamlessly transitions from Miranda to Hamlet and back to Miranda again in the space of five minutes. One last one word must be offered to Veera Sethuraman, who slipped into her character without a trace and did well to keep the audience giggling at regular intervals.

The bad

There was very little for me to pick on, but after the play was over, one couldn't help but think it all ended rather abruptly.

Also, the use of two actors to play one character, as Hans Kaushik explains is a device used in the Koothu tradition to highlight specific messages within the structure of the play, seemed rather bizzare. It also disturbed the performances of Ophelia and Emilia, both of whom were played by two actors who moved around like conjoined twins attached at the hip.

In both cases, the actors were noticeably spending their time synchronising their speeches, rather than tending to its actual delivery which more often than not ended up sounding robotic and unnatural. Furthermore, the treatment of characters was oddly unbalanced, as some retained their original Shakesperean traits, while others were reincarnated as modern tycoons, such as the case with Lady Macbeth. Although, this was certainly by design, it could have been explored in greater depth.

Winding up

After watching a string of plays at Egmore Museum Theatre performed by six colleges from Tamil Nadu a few weeks ago, one wonders why Stella missed the opportunity to bag a few prizes. However, taking nothing away, “Winding Up The Charm” is certainly entertainment that will keep you thinking and giggling well after the warmth of your bottom has left its chairs. Hans Kaushik and his army of women put up one of the best performances this season, so far — double thumbs up!

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

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