In NSD's latest production, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" director Baharul Islam brings out the best in the cast.
The National School of Drama Repertory was set up in 1964 on an experimental basis by the then director, E. Alkazi. In its early years the company was led by the late Om Shivpuri and in 1977 Manohar Singh took over as the first regular Chief of Repertory. After he left in 1985, there was a stop gap arrangement for quite a few years when from 1989 to 1994 Ram Gopal Bajaj managed the company, and between 1994 and 1997 Kaushal functioned as the acting chief. Since 1999 Suresh Sharma is the permanent chief. These ad hoc arrangements have seriously affected the health of the Repertory particularly in the last 10 years or so.The Repertory's latest presentation Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (in Hindi) directed by Baharul Islam has after a long gap helped to infuse a new life in the Repertory. But first a brief introduction to the play that was a hit of the 1962-63 season on Broadway.
The play is built around an all-night drinking party where two couples George and Martha and their sharply contrasted friends Nick and his wife Honey rip each other to smithereens. George and his wife Martha are a sharply contrasted pair. Martha is the vulgar, vicious, domineering female; George is the defeated, self-pitying male who eventually fights back with sarcasm and cruelty. The other couple, Nick is cowardly and his wife, Honey, a neurotic. Through the long night these four flay each other and by dawn all illusions have been shattered, truth has been reduced to a weapon of torture, human relationships have been exposed as a sado-masochistic conflict, and existence itself is revealed as ugly. We may well ask how a play of this sort could achieve great public success. The answer lies in the skill of the playwright and more so of the translator Vivek Sharma, a graduate of NSD whose translation beautifully catches the nuances and the spirit of Edward Albee's language. He has created life-like people and juxtaposed in such a manner that tension and conflict develop instantly. And what is more the director Baharul Islam has brought out the best in the cast. But the question arises: Does the theme go down well with the Indian audience of today?