Performing Shakespeare in India is a prickly business. It’s probably easier if the entire troupe is Indian, there’s little chance of stiffness and awkwardness being attendant upon the scene, but when the director is British! Oh dear. It’s a little like that Gloria Gaynor song,
“And so you’re back! From outer space,
I just walked in to find you here with that sad look upon your face,…”
No, but really, a couple of people walked in late and one man sitting behind me tittered uncomfortably about “us late Indians”. I almost expected him to prostrate himself in front of the director, who in the meanwhile, with the well practiced ease of a college professor who has generally had a captive audience for many years (well, the doors are usually shut), talked for fifteen minutes straight without hitch or pause or break. He eventually took himself off the stage and someone apparently went to call the actors. I thought that part was kind of charming.Like we were in the middle of their day and asked them at that moment for a play :).
The performance was The Rape of Lucrece, a narrative poem that is not usually performed. We disagreed, the director and I, on whether the character remained static in her perception of the world or whether she began to question her role in it, but that couldn’t be helped :). Well, e.g. I didn’t see Lucrece unable to support the character of an orthodox wife anymore because her world was turned upside down by brutality. That is, she says something about the death of a true wife, but she doesn’t say it like she discovers it to be a hollow thing, a condition that let her down and didn’t protect her. It was more like she couldn’t continue as if nothing had happened to her. So pain yes, questioning no. Every time you mark a text to be a thing of it’s times because it is so unrelenting in it’s presentation of one point of view there will be one small sentence wherein a character will say – she should have just killed the attacker instead of herself.
Which makes you think that putting actions or thoughts down as a consequence of an era just doesn’t hold water.
I thought the lady who played Lucrece was a pretty good actor just the same. I knew the Tarquin dude was new to this theatre but… I wondered why he did not lend more richness and nuance to his words, as if they were emerging from him as he was thinking them, and not as if he was saying his lines prepared. On top of everything else the actor was so ludicrously chubby cheeked, he looked more like a baby padding determinedly towards it’s goal than a man bent on rape. Still, that let me dislike him a lot less. Have you ever, (quite unfairly)hated an actor because they had to play the villain? I have. I have very poor distancing skills.
I liked it enough, but I wouldn’t gaily book a sex assault play for a Sunday evening again.