He has inspired countless films, shows and books. Today is Shakespeare’s 450 birth anniversary and the city salutes the maharaja of hi and low brow

William Shakespeare’s plays have inspired theatre, film and the English Language. Today is Shakespeare’s 450 birth anniversary and the city is celebrating him in various ways.

At Jagriti Theatre, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be staged in its Bengali version Chaitali Rater Swapna, translated by Utpal Dutt, directed by Abanti Chakraborty, presented by Anya Theatre from April 25 to April 26. On April 27, Bone Up Billy Win, a quiz on Shakespeare’s writings and life and times will be held.

From April 30 to May 4, Madhav Sharma, British actor and director, presents Bharat, Blighty and The Bard—Shakespeare for everyone, directed by Miranda Lapworth.

British Council, Bangalore is conducting a series of workshops Shakespeare for Young Learners for children between the age group, eight to 12 years and 13 to 18 years. “Through these workshops, we want to introduce young learners to Shakespeare,” says Charu Sapra, Manager, British Council, Bangalore. “This is a performance approach to Shakespeare as advocated by the Royal Shakespeare Company. His texts will be explored as not just works of literature, but also as performance.”

Most would agree that the universal and enduring popularity of Shakespeare lies in how his works have been interpreted and adapted. Atul Kumar, who has performed in Bangalore many times, has had a close association with the Bard, having performed in Hamlet The Clown Prince, Nothing Like Lear and directed Piya Behrupiya, a Hindi translation of Twelfth Night. He says that the most interesting performances of Shakespeare’s works have been when his works have been adapted. “I have seen the best performances of Shakespeare’s plays outside of Britain. What sets his works apart is that they are so malleable and can be shaped to suit any era, any situation, any setting. The non-academic approach to his works opens up his world, his humanity in myriad ways. For me, I didn’t have to go by the book.”

Bangalore-based playwright and theatre director, Prashanth Nair, who won the 2012 The Hindu MetroPlus Playwright Award for his play Romeo and Juliet, No Strings Attached says there is a lot of space for interpretation in Shakespeare’s texts. “At the heart of it, his plays are rooted in human emotions.” Romeo And Juliet..., which was performed last week in Jagriti, and has had a number of shows across the city and in Chennai, Coimbatore and Cochin, interprets the original play to depict what holds us back and sets us free.

Considering the audience that Shakespeare’s plays—staged in their original form or adaptations of his plays— continue to draw, Prashanth says Shakespeare’s works have been passed down to us in so many forms that even though we may not be completely familiar with his texts, we can all relate to his works. “All of us know substantive bits of Shakespeare’s works, because they have percolated into films, plays and music. It has inspired enough content. Even if we take Hindi films of the late 1980s, early 1990s, we see many films, such as Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak being inspired by Shakespeare. There are a lot of creative works that are not adaptations that have been derived from his works.”

Vivek Madan, Bangalore-based actor, theatre director and programming executive, Jagriti Theatre agrees with Atul saying that Shakespeare’s plays aren’t only for high-brow entertainment. “His works have inspired many films and plays and are timeless in the truest sense of the word. His plays are rooted in human nature.”

The workshops at British Council for the age group of 13 to 18 years will be held on April 26 and May 10, on Merchant of Venice and Romeo and Juliet, respectively, between 10.30 am and 2.30 pm. The workshop for the younger age group is centred on the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

For details mail purnima.krishna@in.britishcouncil.org. For more information on the plays and quiz to be held at Jagriti Theatre visit www.jagrititheatre.com or call 41242879.