All ye Delhi theatre enthusiasts, rejoice! The Shakespeare Comedy Theatre Festival reaches Delhi for its final bow, after touring 10 cities in India, performing over 40 shows.
When William Shakespeare gave the protagonist of his play Julius Caesar this line, “I am constant as the Northern Star,” the Bard was foretelling the future of his own undying presence in the world of theatre, even 400 years after his death. His plays, continuously reinterpreted in several languages by various cultures, have stood the test of time. Yet another reinterpretation comes from actor-director Rajat Kapoor, who has reinvented three major tragedies — Macbeth, Hamlet, King Lear — and the pastoral comedy As You Like It. These four plays will be staged as part of The Shakespeare Comedy Theatre Festival. Actors Kalki Koechlin and Vinay Pathak, both of whom do cinema and theatre regularly.
In Rajat Kapoor’s adaptation, a bunch of clowns take centrestage and reinterpret the plays, taking clowning as a theatrical expression. For instance, in the adaptation of Hamlet, in which Kalki Koechlin and Vinay Pathak play central characters, we see a bunch of clowns putting up a show of Hamlet. At times, they misinterpret the text, sometimes add new understanding to it, and often make a mess of it. Talking about the production, Rajat Kapoor says, “My first play featuring clowns was C For Clowns. It had nothing to do with Shakespeare; it had no text. And then I got intrigued by the idea of doing a classical play with clowns. That’s how Hamlet happened in 2008. Then [King] Lear happened four years later, and consequently things followed. In different plays, the clowns have been used differently.”
Subscribing to the thought that Shakespearean plays are timeless, Kapoor believes that present-day audiences can still relate to the plots. “The characters and situations of the plays are still relevant,” he says. “Of course, it cannot speak to us in a language that we understand. But there is scope for interpretation, and I feel the more I understand it, the more I can make the audience understand it.”
The two-day festival at Siri Fort auditorium, New Delhi, promises to add more colour to the already vibrant theatre scene of the Capital. Actor Vinay Pathak, who will essay the role of a clown in Hamlet, says, “We created all kinds of clowns — short, fat, happy, and suicidal. The clown I’m portraying in Hamlet is a continuation of that. We wanted to deconstruct Shakespeare’s play — understand the psyche, and show its relevance. All his plays are so heavily textual, and he has left so many things to be interpreted. But we realised that his powerful characters are people we see today, and those who are in power. Indeed, it was a challenging task to retain the original idea while fooling around.”
- What: Shakespeare Comedy Theatre Festival
- Where: Siri Fort Auditorium
- When: April 15, 16
- Timings: 4pm to 8pm
- Nearest Metro Station: Green Park in the Yellow Line