By Beaumarchais, translated/adapted by Ranjit Bolt
Directed by Jatinder Verma
Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre
Date: Monday 20th November 2006
This was a novel experience. The original play by Beaumarchais has been turned into an Indian extravaganza, complete with music. It ends up looking much more like a Brian Rix farce set in India (this is not a criticism). It took a while to get used to the characters dancing on and dancing off, as well as occasional bursts of dancing in the middle, but it was good fun, and the Indian hierarchy seemed to work just as well as the old European one.
The set was relatively simple – two walls at an angle to the front of the stage, with four or five doors. The musician sat to one side, playing a variety of instruments, mostly drums, I think, but the music blended in so well I can pay it the compliment of saying I didn’t notice it too often. There were only five actors, and more parts than that, so some characters were played with masks, allowing any spare actor to represent them. One of the masks seemed to be an ear, another a nose, etc. This mostly worked very well, but in a few scenes, actors had to slip away and leave their mask to be held by another character, so I might have preferred one or two more actors in the cast, just to make it easier on everyone, including the audience.
The plot came thick and fast. In fact, about the only criticism I have of the performances was that some of the dialogue went like the clappers, and what with trying to pick up on the different cultural references, I found it hard to follow at times. But I did get the gist (after all, I have seen the opera), and some of it was hilarious. References like “the rupee’s dropped, at last!”, and “pardon my Hindi”, after a brief bit of swearing, went down very well. It was a shame the audience wasn’t as full as usual, and the sheer volume of plot permutations did get a little trying at times. But this was a good fun production, very well performed, and deserves a lot of success.
© 2006 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me