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The stage production of William Arden Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by a British director Tim Supple was one in a million-that everyone talked about it and questions rode questions, on how the performance went. ‘It is the best production I have ever seen. What grapples me most, is the cast, ravaging with a rich choreography’, this was said by the British Ambassador to India in a chat with Times of India.
The almighty dramatist play was sponsored for production by the British Council, India. Staged at Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, on Rajendra Prasad Road, New Delhi, on the 3 of March, the old, but became-new play was performed by what Mr. Supple described as ‘an all Indian and Sri Lankan cast’, spoken in many languages, from English to Hindi and Bengali.
It was free. But one has to get a pass to be admitted in. All and sundry came for this mesmerizing production-and all came and went, but only one person never went from my memory. The one and only Arundhati Roy-the world acclaimed author of The God of Small Things. She was there. She was there for good and praises poured on her. Her presence sweetened the sweet production, as well as heightened emotions.
A Midsummer Night's Dream is a romantic comedy by William Shakespeare, written sometime in the mid-1590s. It depicts the adventures of four young lovers and a group of amateur actors in a moonlit forest, and their interactions with the fairies who inhabit it. Today, the play is one of Shakespeare's most popular and is performed across the world.
When the production came to an end with a big coctail and wide applauds, I realised that I have never read this acclaimed bestseller. And so, I wobbled into a bookshop around and got a copy. It is cheap here in India. Everything is cheap. And I read this book in three days. Unbelievable? That is the truth. Because the story line is straight and sweet. But before then, the writer-activist who lives in New Delhi spoke about life as a writer. ‘You have to be yourself. No pretence. And if any pretence, that should be embedded in your characters. Think like your characters and see what this life is all about’, Ms Roy said, intoned.
There is something surreal about her. Her benevolence and non-descriminative wit and candour. India has bestselling authors like Salman Rushdie (Satanic Verses), Amitav Ghosh, Jhumpa Lahiri (Interpreter of Maladies), Chetan Bhagat (One Night @ the Call Centre), the Nobel Laureates and more.
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Anyway, the production which began about 7.00 p.m came to an end at about 9pm. It was like the same experience I had watching Wole Akinwande Soyinka’s Kongi’s Harvest at the National Theatre, yesteryears. And the two indomitable playwrights have things in common. Their vulgar way of expressing baldry and wit and humour. Just like their names, William Arden Shakespeare and Wole Akinwande Soyinka grill. WAS or WS, they are all the same.