Shakespeare has caught the fancy of group theatre in recent months, but a fresh band of youths had beaten them to it with an ebullient Bengali pastiche of Hamlet. 4th Bell Theatres had debuted with Hapi-D (a weak pun on come-dy), deliberately and delectably perverting the Danish tragedy into a festive comedy, recalling other famous subversions of the classic by Charles Marowitz and Joseph Papp. It served as the perfect answer to the questions raised by 4th Bell in their own manifesto: “Why should one go to theatres when all kinds of entertainment media are just one click away? What can we offer them?”
So, we see an ordinary troupe on stage (picture) caught off-guard by the unexpected presence of spectators in the hall, whom they decide to satisfy with an improvised Hamlet, which, of course, turns into a recipe for riotous disaster as internal tensions and romance surface repeatedly. Some weird doubling of parts would have greatly interested the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, like the virtuosic Sumit Kumar Roy performing the perhaps never-before triple role of Hamlet’s Father, Polonius and Laertes! And just for the unforgettable Rohan Tripathi as a brawny and towering Gertrude, lifting dumbbells, behaving like a dumb belle and speaking in the bassest voice of all the cast, one should not miss Hapi-D. It even has something political to say, but I cannot reveal that here.
4th Bell celebrated their first birthday with their second full-length play, Fifteen Minutes to Fame, written and directed by Aniruddha Dasgupta, who had “structured and designed” Hapi-D. Inspired by Andy Warhol’s prophecy, it follows an average suburban teenager fixated by the idea of becoming famous for a brief period. He does things like jumping into a well to grab media attention — which doesn’t happen — and joining a rail roko, which wins him a twenty-second TV bite, ending in a reconciliatory resolution. Despite the welcome live singing and music, the linear narrative and an apparent compulsion to say something serious make Fifteen Minutes conventional compared to the uninhibited zaniness of Hapi-D.
Another young group, Mad About Drama, also disappoints with its second outing, Seven Deaths and a Funeral, which lacks the immediacy of its inaugural show, 7-Laksha-1. Aritra Sengupta scripted and directed a too-schematic psychodrama in which invitees to a birthday party soliloquize about their darkest secrets — some not particularly evil at all. Besides, only very experienced actors can grip us while confined to one chair each. Thus, excepting Sengupta himself, the other “patients” leave a monotonous effect, killing the supposed thriller.