fri 25/07/2014

Globe to Globe: Twelfth Night, Shakespeare's Globe | Theatre reviews, news & interviews

Globe to Globe: Twelfth Night, Shakespeare's Globe

Shakespeare's romantic comedy as sophisticated Hindi musical

Trupti Khamkar (Maria), Geetanjali Kulkarni (Viola) and Neha Saraf (Feste) in a joyous Hindi numberSimon Annand

The rain it raineth every day this week, sometimes with monsoon-like persistence. Yet there’s no dousing the ardour of groundlings and thespian visitors to the global Shakespeare village within the wooden O. Comic exuberance reaches a sophisticated high watermark here with the Company Theatre of Mumbai unfurling Twelfth Night as a Hindi musical.

Experienced director Atul Kumar makes sure that music is the food for surprisingly robust strains of romantic love and mourning as well as the expected japes in a seamless, multicoloured whirl of words, recitative, song and dance. With the perfect ensemble of nine actors mastering complicated rhythmic tricks as chorus alongside three consummate musicians, none of the performances needs to dominate when each steps into character.

Non-Indian spectators can always enjoy the fluent, often improvised interjections in non-Shakespearean English

All get a cracking set piece or two, though. Mansi Multani’s redoubtable lady Olivia caps even the melismas of Geetanjali Kulkarni’s Viola when her tall personage croons comic-poetically over her "Cesario", discreetly parodying the techniques of two classical Indian dance forms. Sir Toby (Gagan Riar), Sir Andrew (Mantra Mugdha) and Maria (Trupti Khamkar) work their way through a whole divertissement of cakes-and-ale routines before Malvolio sours the fun, and they later execute a catchy victory dance once the fish has taken the bait. If Saurabh Nayyar’s Malvolio is a volatile rather than a dourly self-regarding steward, too ready a smiler to make his grimaces before a startled Olivia truly surprising, he cuts quite a caper in his yellow-orange socks and pants-hugging tights.

You might be hard pressed to spot the number one clown, because while Feste – Neha Saraf in another lively spot of gender re-allocation to follow the impish Thersites of Juanita Hepi in the Maori Troilus and Cressida – leads a few numbers with panache, Sagar Desmukh’s far from melancholy Orsino works the crowd at the start. His jester’s role later devolves to a more than usually resourceful Sebastian (Amitosh Nagpal, pictured below), who charmingly angles for our approval with such confidences as the news that he’s also the play’s translator.

As often, you’d never mistake this Sebastian for his female twin, but this is an audience always ready to go along with the spirit of the thing. Non-Indian spectators – and the balance on Friday afternoon was about half and half – can always enjoy the fluent, often improvised interjections in non-Shakespearean English, though I’d still like more help from the digital display panels; those interpolated songs are such fun that it would help to give the gist of their sentiments.

Flawless though the execution is, there are times when a more introspective tone would be truer to the poetic original. Only occasionally does Amod Bhatt’s harmonium strike a bitter-sweet note, as when Viola reasserts her femininity following her confusing scene with the Duke. For further shade alongside the light, we must wait for the return of arguably the most rounded Shakespeare comedy production of them all, the Globe’s all-male Twelfth Night unveiled back in 2002. Yet so vigorously does the Company Theatre's version re-invent the rules, backed up by its native classical traditions, that it can more than hold its own. This is as much life-affirming theatre as anything else in the Globe's phenomenal Shakespeare carnival so far.

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