A Mahadevi Birla girl as Cesario in the play. Picture by Arnab Mondal
A sandstorm, and not a sea storm, caused Viola to separate from her twin Sebastian and land up in the court of Duke Orsino as Cesario — that’s Twelfth Night remixed by students of Mahadevi Birla World Academy.
The school will represent India at the Shakespeare in Asia Festival presented by Shakespeare4All in Hong Kong next month.
With Rajasthan as the backdrop, The Marionettes Play: Twelfth Night is set in the post-colonial era. It’s a play within a play with Feste and his troupe of Banjara dancers narrating a story of “love, passion and sacrifice”.
The idea of Indianising Shakespeare’s comedy came from the students. “The first thing they suggested is that it should be a sandstorm and so we hit upon Rajasthan and the students started giving ideas on how to make the play relevant to Rajasthan,” said Anjana Saha, the principal of Mahadevi Birla World Academy.
“We drew up a list of typically Indian things such as ghungroo and ghagra that would create the flavour of Rajasthan,” said Nehal Binani of Class XII, who plays Duke Orsino.
The reading of the play and the workshops began during the summer vacations and the girls tried out different contrasting roles like Orsino to Andrew Aguecheek because they have to switch characters and costumes.
For director Dana Roy, the challenge was to compress a two-hour play into just 30 minutes.
“It’s not as if we could depict just one scene. It had to be the entire play with the essence of the original retained. We wanted to use Shakespeare’s words but use it our way and so we conducted workshops to discuss and deliberate on interpretation, script and character.”
The team of nine students will be travelling to Hong Kong on September 5 with their headmistress and co-ordinator of the play, Nupur Ghosh, director Roy and lighting designer Amlan Chaudhuri for five days.
Some of the other teams performing at the gala will be people from China, Korea and Taiwan.