[INDIA ~ AUSTRALIAN PREMIERE ~ SPOKEN IN HINDI WITH AUSTRALIAN SURTITLES]
by Catherine Blanch.
Translated into Hindi by Amitosh Nagpal and directed by Atul Kumar, The Company Theatre Mumbai’s version of Twelfth Night first premiered at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London and is based around the crazy frantic life of modern-day India in the city of Mumbai. Filled with original music, singing and dancing, Twelfth Night is a comedy tale of unrequited love and mistaken identity laced with classic Shakespearean poetry.
We speak, via email, with founding member and Artistic Director of The Company Theatre Mumbai, Atul Kumar.
“The company was formed in 1993 and since then we have been interested in experimenting in all forms of theatre,” he begins “Our artists have come from different cultures and backgrounds with varied skill sets. We don’t believe in approaching art or theatre in any single form or with any single philosophy. All we care about is to constantly rediscover ourselves and be grounded in our basic values.”
It would appear that you present a rather diverse range of productions. What was the choice to present Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night?
“No reason particularly, except that Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London UK was organising a festival of all of Shakespeare’s plays in 2012, and they commissioned this piece in Hindi to be produced by us. The form of this play came about in improvisations and research of music that became intrinsic to the show as it developed.”
Twelfth Night is a comedy of ‘this one loves that one but they love another who loves another…’ Translated by Amitosh Nagpal, how close have you remained to the original text and plot?
“It is extremely close,” Atul says. “Except that we have reduced a three-hour play into a two-hour production, so obviously we had to let go of some characters and scenes. But this was done while we were aware we should respect the narrative of the piece. However Amitosh, in adapting the play took some liberties to make it more personal and rooted into our own ethos and sensibility – and in the process extremely audience friendly and interactive.”
Titas Dutta performs the role of Viola who, disguised as a boy, is sent by Duke Orsino (Sudheer Rikhari) to woo Countess Olivia (played by Anamika) on his behalf. What follows is nothing short of chaos. As Director, what freedom have you allowed your cast to create their own version of their character, or have you kept them to tradition or to a concept of your own?
“I, as a director, completely believe in developing any theatre production depending only what is created in rehearsal room by the actor,” he says. “It is an actor’s art form, I believe, and I must depend on the inner truth of the actor in the process of his/her search for characterisation and developing any moment in the show. I do, sometimes, slide in some of my idea on a sly but all inspirations originate from the actor for me. Sometimes I think I have great ideas but if my actor is uncomfortable in executing in them, I let them go and don’t feel possessive about them.”
Twelfth Night will be performed in Hindi with English surtitles. For those who have not previously seen this play, do you think audiences will clearly be able to follow on with the production’s antics?
“Absolutely!” Atul enthuses. “The show has been performed in Chinese, Spanish, English, French and audiences have responded to Amitosh’s lines in translation in the most positive way. I can say without any doubt it will work in English in Australia – even for people who do not know the story or plot of the play. Also because the show is full of physicality and lots of wonderful music and dance. Rest, of course, depends on the gods of theatre!”
When talking about musicians Rahul Sharma, Amod Bhatt, Rachel D’Souza, Kiyomi Mehta and Niketa Saraf, Atul tell us that they are all on stage with the cast and they even participate in dramatic action. We then ask what his favourite part of the show is.
“All the bits when Sebastian comes on as a narrator are extremely funny, audience interactive and very clever piece of writing,” he says. “I can’t reveal much – audiences must come and watch.”
This is the Australian Premiere of TCT’s Twelfth Night. It the first time you and the cast have been to Australia and will you be taking the show anywhere else while you are here?
“We have performed this on the same tour in Sydney and Melbourne before coming to Adelaide. But yes for all of us 15 people it’s the first time in Australia!”
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
“Come with open hearts and minds and let the music, dance and folk theatre traditions of India take on a new Shakespeare journey,” Atul concludes.”
Twelfth Night performs at Ukiyo Tent, Elder Park, at various times, from Fri 23 Sep until Sat 24 Sep.
Book at BASS on 131 246 and bass.net.au or ozasiafestival.com.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.