Theatre

Shakespeare, sans words

LIKE NEVER BEFORE: A scene from Macbeth Photo: K. V. Srinivasan   | Photo Credit: K_V_Srinivasan

Macbeth, Shakespeare's canonical work, has been performed often on stage but not always has it begun with a provocation of sorts. “Characters always mirror the life of the bard. Write me a play where a man listens to a woman, for a change” says Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare's spouse, accosting her husband in Vietnam House's rendition of the classic performed this week. The bard narrates the story of Macbeth as a response to this challenge.

Created by 'Vietnam Veedu’ Sundaram to celebrate the 60th anniversary of his writing, 'Macbeth', a production that was brought on stage by MacTrics, a mime and body theatre group, was unexampled in many respects. To begin with, the proposition by the bard's wife was itself intriguingly rare. Second, the ensuing play was performed in mime- something that Shakespeare's readers, having feasted on his wit and words for all these years, would not have seen before on stage. After all, it was Sundaram's intention to create something novel and he seems to have succeeded.

A giant pen was propped up at the centre of the stage to begin the evening. It narrated Sundaram's story in a soliloquy. Thereafter, directed by Sravanth, the actors of MacTrics told the story of Macbeth in their style. The only parts that had dialogue were the conversation bits between Shakespeare, played by Sundar Subramaniam and his wife, played by Madhuvanthi Arun.

The rest was presented in mime set to music by Girinandh.

The challenge before the troupe was enormous: to enact a Shakespearan verbal masterpiece without the words. In the original text, words bring out the complex character of Lady Macbeth, the ambitious but righteous Macbeth and the charmingly witty three witches. The production which already began with a proposition to put the character of Lady Macbeth at the forefront had an uphill task in portraying her complexity on stage without dialogue. They succeeded for the most part, but some scenes were definitely lacking. For example the scene where Lady Macbeth (Rani of TV fame) convinces Macbeth (Vikas) to kill King Duncan was hardly dwelled on. It did not bring out the uncertainty that Macbeth suffers from before performing the act and the strong-willed nature of Lady Macbeth.

Additionally the flash-episodic format of the entire play also ensured that not much time was spent delineating specific episodes. The transition between scenes was carried out with the help of black-outs which enhanced the crispness of the entire production. Overall, the quick-flash format worked as it was indeed a rapid retelling of a classic.

While Vikas essayed the role of Macbeth with ease, Rani could have emoted better as Lady Macbeth. The ‘mummers’ were exceptional for their part. With their athletic bodies, they beautifully doubled up as the props as well as the action on stage. With their bodies as the only material, they formed the king’s chambers, the doors of the castle, and even the moving woods. The fight sequences and stunts stood out in almost every scene necessitating a periodic round of applause. The music, though it captured the essence and tone of the play, bordered on becoming sensational during certain fragments.

At the end of the play, after the witches’ prophecy comes true resulting in Macbeth's death, the bard re-enters the stage. Gloating at himself for having successfully delivered a play where a man listens to a woman, as was asked of him, he looks for his wife for approval. Anne appears only to recount the fact that the characters of the bard indeed mirror his life and criticises her husband for failing to see beyond the stage. In a fitting response to a play like Macbeth, Anne says, “In the stage of life, you missed life”.



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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 3:07:17 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/theatre/shakespeare-sans-words/article6291609.ece

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