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The Bard and Bollywood

Masquerade's production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" used koothu and dance sequences with interesting results



IMPRESSIVE PERFORMANCE A scene from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" Photo: Vino John

Masquerade's version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" confidently walked a tightrope between being a spoof and a honest-to-goodness Shakespearian production. Shakespeare's plays worked bawdiness in using hosts of double entendres, added music and dancing and built the plots around sob-a-minute desperate love stories. Of course, there are layers to his plays. But they also have the spoof-like over-the-top characteristics.

Reeling in audiences

So, when director Krishna Kumar decided to spike "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with koothu, Bollywood dance sequences and more than a little over-acting, he was, in a way, just performing the play in the way it was sometimes performed: to reel in audiences, regardless of their age or `intellectual stature'.

Gratifyingly, Masquerade did manage to capture a whole new theatre audience with this venture, in spite of the rather complicated plot: Hermia and Lysander are in love with each other, much to her father's dismay. Demetrius loves Hermia too. And Helena is in love with Demitrius. The first couple elopes, heading to the woods. The second follows. In the woods, the fairy king and queen have fallen out. And, between all this, a group of amateur actors, who are practicing a tragedy, which they plan to stage for the Duke, bumble through. All their paths intersect, with chaotic results.

Abhijeet Mohanty and Porko, playing the passionate suitors were good — alternating convincingly between romance and rage, and, Helena, played by Gitanjali Raman, carried off her love-struck spaniel act with ιlan.

Competent acting

Freddie Koikaran, who expressively played a rather weak-minded actor given the "lion's role" (which only required occasional roaaarrs) and Krishna Kumar, playing an actor enlisted to play "moonlight" had the audience in splits. In fact, the band of blundering peasants, on the whole, did a very competent job, including poor Karthik Varma, who was put into a skirt and far too much lipstick to play a bewildered, and hilarious, Thisby. And Puck, played by Shyam Sunder, was impressive, especially considering how well he took being pulverised by the dashing, and hot headed, king of the fairies, Oberon, played by Mathivanan.

On the downside, some of the dance sequences were rather clumsy, the sets were slap-dash, and a few of the actors — some of whom were very young — didn't really understand how to deliver verse, without it sounding monotonous.

SHONALI MUTHALALY

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