Four Seasons of Shakespeare
12hrs of travelling, 2 planes, and 8209 kilometres and we arrive in Chennai to embark on our journey of Shakespeare in India. First impressions: Heat, noise and colour. It’s around 5.30 in the evening and it’s beginning to get dark, but the air is humid, the roads are filled with traffic and not only are the women dressed in a multitude of different patterned saris, but the buildings themselves are a variety of colours and the shops are decorated with neon lights. It already feels very different to the cold, ordered streets of London.
Much like our 21st century characters in the show, who are thrown from their daily routines into an enchanted forest, we are thrust from the structure of our Alra routine into an entirely different world. In this forest, our characters stumble upon characters and scenes from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and A Winter’s tale and the challenge for us as actors was the discovery of these characters for ourselves. We were given several characters to portray and had to switch between these in an instant. I was lucky enough to be given the parts of Hermia, Titania and Paulina. What a treat to be given such strong and diverse roles! But this meant that we really needed to find the contrast in these characters. How to communicate the stories of our many characters and how to make the play transfer to an Indian audience, an audience, which although English speaking, don’t have English as their first language?!
The space in which we performed was at the Kalakshetra foundation, a beautiful haven on the outside of the city.
The theatre, with sides open to the air, was surrounded by studios which were filled with dancers, musicians and singers training in the arts.
During the performance we were accompanied on stage by a musician, dancer and vocalist who transformed the space into the enchanted forest are characters were thrust into. As well as being joined by a bat and an albino spider who also graced the stage with us.
We got a wonderful reception from the Indian audience who seemed to really appreciate hearing Shakespeare performed in English and it was a truly unique experience for us to be able to perform Shakespeare in India.
Thank you to the Vayu Naidu Storytelling Theatre Company and to ALRA!