Theatre

As they like it

ENTHRALLING PERFORMANCE: A scene from the play Oliver Goldsmith's ‘She Stoops to Conquer’ by students of Lady Doak College. Photo: R. Ashok

ENTHRALLING PERFORMANCE: A scene from the play Oliver Goldsmith's ‘She Stoops to Conquer’ by students of Lady Doak College. Photo: R. Ashok  

The theatrical presentations by students of Mannar Thirumalai Naicker College and Lady Doak College on William Shakespeare’s A Mid Summer Night’s Dream and Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer, respectively, reflects the sustained interest in English theatre

Two plays from two different periods. Yet each is equally relevant today. Both the plays, A Mid Summer Night’s Dream and She Stoops to Conquer, are romantic comedies and have some similar themes like mistaken identities.

Staged by the Daughters of the Stage, students of Lady Doak College, She Stoops to Conquer is a social comment on the class consciousness of the 18th century Englishmen, well established by the character Mr. Hardcastle, who is passionate after things that are old. “Old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wines, military metaphors and his 57-year-‘old’ wife” are indeed the fashionable world for Mr. Hardcastle while his wife hates anything old she finds. She appears to assess a person by the value of his or her possessions. In spite of her misguided values, she enjoys the love of her practical, down-to-earth husband while Mr. Hardcastle, too, is willing to look beyond her foibles.

“I chose the play as I was inspired by Ms. Sweety Chinniah, an alumna of this college, whom I met recently. She told me she loved reading the play as an intermediate student in 1952. That prompted me to pick this one for enactment,” says Beatrice Anne D’Couto, the director of the play.

Set in a polite society, the comedy arises from the gap between the characters’ attempts to preserve standards of polite behaviour that contrasts to their true behaviour. As the title indicates the play revolves around several ‘stooping’ moments of various characters. Marlow stoops physically to win the heart of Kate while Kate stoops socially to win the heart of Marlow. Both Hastings and Neville, on the other hand, have moral stooping en route their love and marriage.

Through farcical humour, the play ridicules the craze for fashion in Mrs Hardcastle, the pampered child in Tony Lumpkin and duel personality in Marlow.

N. Rasha Shanaz, I M.Sc Physics, as Ms. Kate Hardcastle was simply brilliant with her expressions while P. Maheswari, M.Phil English, as Mr. Marlow and S. Kanimozhi, III B.A English as Mr. Hardcastle did enough justice to their roles and in dialogue delivery.

Recreating the magic of William Shakespeare has always been a tough proposition, as spouting Elizabethan verse was as difficult as to ask a person to write poetry on-the-spot. The very attempt to handle a full-length Shakespearean play is commendable. And the students of Mannar Thirumalai Naicker College did a creditable job. Director Sarojaa V. Kumar made their task easy by simplifying the complex plot.

The play features three interlocking plots, all connected by a celebration of the wedding of Duke Theseus of Athens and the Amazonian Queen Hippolyta.

The performance captured original fancy and daring imagination as depicted by Shakespeare. The story never lapsed into dullness or obscurity (especially when Puck plays his mischief). Finally the play completed a full circle as it concluded from where it commenced. The scenic backdrop especially the woods scene and the costumes of the fairies and other characters were admirable.

A modest attempt had been made to retain major portions of the dialogues in the original text but some had been `clipped' for paucity of time, said Sarojaa V. Kumar. “We had tough time keeping the duration of the play to 90 minutes. I clipped lengthy dialogues considering the strengths of my team. Casting was also tough I spent more than a month on this project. Most of them are first-timers to acting,” she says.

Set design by G. Vinoth Kumar and M. Anbazhagan was splendid as they recreated the forest on stage. As far as casting goes, H. Gurubalaji, III BA, who donned the role of Puck deserves mention. He caught the attention with his nimble-footed movements. He was also seen as a comic element. But K. Manikandan as Duke Theseus made ‘willing suspension of disbelief ' rather difficult.

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Printable version | May 25, 2020 5:19:36 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/As-they-like-it/article15429753.ece

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