Sunday, 5 July 2015

Rib-ticklingly funny: The Cmplt Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged) by The Lord Chamberlain's Men​

The Cmplt Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged) by The Lord Chamberlain's Men​ is aimed at your funny bones while adequately capturing the essence of Shakespeare and his works. The play does some justice to the genius of Shakespeare, with a display of its own genius in choosing various forms of narrative and improvisation.

The Cmplt Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged) was presented on July 4 and 5 at Jagruti Theatre, Varthur Road, Whitefield. I went to the play on a lazy but traffic-ravaged Sunday afternoon with my mother, my husband and my best friend, all of us with varying levels of knowledge of Shakeyboy's works. But our excessive or less-than-desirable background to his works did not deter us from enjoying the play at all. We laughed from scene one to the end, as the three actors - Srikanth, Sophia and Riyaz - took us through the plays one by one - or, let us say, in a jiffy; in a mere two hours. What made the play a success was its interactiveness, and if there's anything the audience loves more than a well portrayed tragedy that leaves us crying, it is the appreciation of our presence by actors on the stage.

It began with an introduction to the Bard of Stratford-upon-Avon and his body of works, and the jokes came in the form of snide comments on the credentials of the company's capability to produce and attempt such a feat - 36 plays in two hours! - and constant digs among the three actors on their capability to be able to "do it". Comments by actors on each other's acting skills was something everyone thoroughly enjoyed - Riyaz, you seem to be under the impression that every woman in Shakespeare puked everywhere and dressed in weird white wigs, says Srikanth when Riyaz starts enacting vomiting for the third time while playing Ophelia - and that in itself intends to pre-empt and seek an anticipatory bail to audience reactions. Self-deprecatory humour has always been my favourite sort of humour.

After quite a few false starts on trying to give a scholarly idea of Shakespeare, we are taken to his much-abused but much-beloved tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. This play was dealt with in much detail, the important scenes brought alive on the stage with much fumbling - intentional - and it made me wonder how they'd manage the other 35 in the next 1:20 hours. The casting of the "most manly guy" of the repertory as the female characters throughout was a clever move, which I hope wasn't missed on the cooperative and appreciative audience - that also unfortunately comprised school kids on whom much of the mockery was lost.

They decided to do a rap of the story of Othello, the Moor of Venice - because the story of a(n almost) "Black man" has to be done in the popular African culture - hear it yourself to decide how much you like it. Titus Andronicus is enacted in a chop-chop cookery show that was quite lost on the audience because most of us hadn't read the play, and the comedies were taken through in a swift, smooth narration-cum-dance moves a one comprehensive story that spoke of several dukes, lost brothers and sisters, twins and lookalikes, princesses, villains, usurpers, madmen and pages that all sound alike anyway. It was sheer brilliance. My favourite, though, was the way the histories was done - a football match, with the sundry Richards, Henrys and a lone John - and my favourite joke of evening was: "King Lear comes to the field, and he is shown the red card, disqualified for being a fictional character!".

Macbeth, sadly, was dismissed in a couple of scenes - I was hoping to see some interesting take on the 'Out, brief candle..." scene, but the superstition surrounding the play's mention on stage was touched upon. Hamlet, being one of the best and the most loved plays of the Bard, was played out almost in full, and how! The main scenes were enacted, and then re-enacted in superfast-pace like an "in-a-nutshell" piece, and then (much to the annoyance of Srikanth and Sophia *chuckle*) re-enacted in the same superfast-pace in reverse. They received a well deserved round of applause for both the pacy efforts.

The element of Reality Shows was also brought in, with the actors springing a surprise on a member of the audience who was asked to stand in for Riyaz who refused to play Ophelia. She was asked to scream when Hamlet told her to "Get thee to the nunnery!", but Riyaz (who was throwing a tantrum over playing the role of Ophelia) shot down the effort as worthless. So, to allow the poor audience lady to "get into the skin of the character" and to give her a "psychological context" to the scene, a member of the audience was asked to run around the stage (signifying confusion), a group of audience was asked to wave their hands around (signifying a vacillating ego) and the rest of the audience was divided into three parts, with each asked to scream aloud different lines, signifying the "Id, Superego and Society" and all of this - the running and the screaming of three separate lines - was ordered to be done at the same time. In the end, the poor woman screamed in real desperation, I'm sure.

The only joke that I thought tarried after a few seconds was Srikanth's lame attempts to fill in time while Sophia ran after Riyaz who refused to do Hamlet because it "is too heavy and boring". The music was apt, the theatrical space used brilliantly, the lighting managed excellently - what with the actors calling to have the house lights on every 15 minutes to consult or jibe the audience - and though some of the comic timing of the actors wasn't exactly perfect, the play made my evening. I can't wait for The Lord Chamberlain's Men to present this show again in Bengaluru so that I can go to it with a different set of friends. 
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