THEATRE Soumitra Chatterjee lived the role of “Raja Lear”..
Acreative collaboration between a director with a vision and an inspired cast headed by a legendary actor results in an excellent theatrical art work. This kind of creative collaboration was in evidence in “Raja Lear”, the Bengali adaptation of William Shakespeare's “King Lear”, which was featured at the 14th Bharat Rang Mahotsav last week. Soumitra Chatterjee in the lead role was the cynosure of all eyes. He truly lived various levels of suffering, imparting tragic glory to his character. He received thunderous applause at the end of the show, his admirers climbing on stage to shake hands with him, and many touching his feet. The veteran accepted this adulation with humility. Directed by Suman Mukhopadhyay, the play was presented by Minerva Repertory Theatre, Kolkata.
An entangled web of intrigues, “Raja Lear” depicted the blackest depths of the human soul as reflected in the terrifying cruelty of daughters towards the father who had divided his kingdom among them. The irreconcilable conflicts were shown through action with a fast pace and immediacy, conveying the message that so long as one was in power one was blinded by authority, able to see reason, truth and justice only after losing power. Here the king became a beggar and insane and the blind man discovered his inner sight. It was a situation in which the mad man led the blind man.
One of the most striking features of the production was the set design by Hiran Mitra. The available space was imaginatively used. To reflect multiple layers of the thematic content, various levels were created for the action to take place. Huge wooden structures were conceived with enough space in the centre for vital actions to unfold. The wooden structures were without any colour to be in tune with the raw and dark mood of the play. Similarly, many exits and entry points were provided to the performers which ensured seamless flow of action. The action took place on the bare stage. Only in the opening sequence, where King Lear divides his kingdom, a chair was placed, symbolising state power, but as soon as the division was over the chair was removed. There was a huge door fixed upstage which suggested the entry to the palace. When the king was humiliated and insulted by his daughters, he wanted to cross it but the door was slammed on him. This heightened the tragic impact, forcing the king to wander through rain and storm, resulting in his madness. The use of cloth held by lyrically moving performers created the ambience of howling storms. The off-stage score drawn from Western music (Debajyoti Mishra) and light design (Hiran Mitra) contributed to harmonise the production and enabled the performers to reveal their tormented inner world and evoke the right ambience.
The denouement is heart-rending, the arrangement evoking the tragedy inherent in Shakespeare's original, with a grieving Lear and his loyal clown beside him.
Sudipa Basu's Goneril and Senjuti Roy Mukhopadhyay's Regan evoked indignation for their wickedness and filial ingratitude. Ankita Majhi as Cordelia who was wronged by the king and served him with affection when he had lost everything, including his sanity, struck a sympathetic chord with the audience. Koushik Adhikari as Edgar, the legitimate son of Gloster and the victim of his half brother's villainous conspiracy, and Anirban Bhattacharya as Edmand, the illegitimate son of Gloster who was obsessed with morbid ambitions to grow, prosper and acquire power through his treacherous and base acts, gave a brilliant account of themselves.
DIWAN SINGH BAJELI