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'It's not a patch job of theatre'

British stage-director Tim Supple talks to Damini Purkayastha about his Midsummer Nighth Dream and more.
Hindustan Times | By Damini Purkayastha, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 09, 2008 03:47 PM IST

He's known for his association with India and now Tim Supple, British stage-director, is back after three years with Midsummer Night's Dream.

It's Shakespeare's script, narrated in six Indian languages, with influences of Indian theatre. HT City keeps Supple from a maddening practice session to answer some quick questions.

Here are the excerpts:

You're known today by your own association with India. Where did it begin?
I heard about Indian folk theatre from some guys I was working with and it intrigued me. When I came to India in the late 90s and travelled across the country, I realised the variety and vastness of Indian theatre. As I began to learn about them, I realised this was a form of art that suited me best.

So is the play a showcasing of Indian folk theatre?
Definitely not. The point is not for people to come and point out the different form, it has all been assimilated into the work. What I am after is tapping into the artist's history so it fits into the context, the play is not a patch job of theatre.

Why Midsummer Night's Dream?
It corresponded best to what I wished to do. The play is one of the best written in the canon - it's dark, it's happy it has the supernatural, it has love and it has a happy ending. I didn't want to take all that and perform it with the baggage of Englishness.

We don't have the variety that India offers to the play is it an Indian adaptation?
It's not an adaptation, I never do adaptations. The play is Indian, the actors, the script, everything, except me. The characters are Indian and not anglicised at all. And yet we stick closely to the Shakespearean script, in all the six languages.

Have you learnt the languages?
Of course not, I am not a genius now am I?

So how do you follow what's happening?
Primarily because it's Shakespeare. But yes, I have picked up the nuances of the languages, and because it is exactly the original script, I know what to look out for.

What's been the reception of the Indian audience?
The Indian audience responds differently to Shakespeare. I think certain aspects of Shakespeare are more alive here. Two instances I think of from this play are where the father doesn't allow the daughter to marry the man of her choice and the other is the notion of absolution and resolution of everything in marriage.

Indian audiences don't pay for theatre. Unfortunately you don't have a passionate theatre going audience quite like the cinemagoing audience.

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