ByÂ Shubhra Kukreti:
3D may come and 2D movies may go, theatre remains the original medium of storytelling to the masses. Theatre is something which holds our attention and transports us to an altogether different world. It may even present a newer insight about our existing world. American English retains the original spelling “theater”, so some people interpret it as “the(e)ater” i.e. something which furnishes you food for thought. No denying that theatre lovers are a lesser known species at present, but even if there is a little flicker within you which sparks at the mention of theatre, you should definitely watch these 10 famous plays to turn your flickering into full blown inferno.
(The list is just indicative and does not imply any hierarchy)
This Sanskrit epic by Rishi Valmiki highlights the victory of good over evil, and that is why, serves as a religious text for Hindus. The central characters of the play: Ram, Sita, Lakshman, Hanuman, till date serve as the role models. Its ageless appeal grants it the status of a Super hit play. During the festive season of Navratra, Ramayana is performed in every nook and corner of the country.
Waiting for Godot
An empty yet engaging representation by Samuel Beckett where two people, Vladimir and Estragon are shown to be waiting for Godot, but neither of them knows who Godot is. They have been waiting since days and there is “nothing to be done” else, while Godot will always come ‘tomorrow’ while everyday turned into ‘today’. This leaves us wondering if we too are just waiting for a Godot in our lives and thus repeating the ongoing cycles of life. Did we create Godot or is it Godot which lends meaning to our existence? Waiting For Godot is perhaps the most performed play in the history of international theatre and recently in the Bharat Rang Mahotsav 2012 it was performed as Insha ka Intezaar by renowned Pakistani artists such as Sheema Kermani and Salim Meraj.
Moliere sheds light on hypocrisy prevailing in our society using this classic play written in Alexandrine verse. Tartuffe, an imposter, finds his way in the house and heart of Monsieur Orgon, and what follows next becomes tragically comic. This play, originally in French, was performed in Hindi as Acharya Tartuffe under the eminent theatre director Prasanna at the National School of Drama in 2010.
A Raisin in the Sun
Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun is a realistic play that “changed American theater forever“, revolving around racial discrimination, generation gap, and quest for identity, which demands if it is valid for the working class coloured people to attempt realizing the great American dream. The play was first staged in 1959 and is accredited as the first Broadway play ever written by an Afro-American woman. It is to be underlined that all the members of the original cast of “A Raisin in the Sun” like Ruby Dee, Diana Sands became successful actors, although nearly all of them were unknown when the play opened in 1959.
Written by Eugene Ionesco in a post-world war period, Rhinoceros shows Homo sapiens suddenly changing into rhinoceros and is open to various interpretations; one of them being that man often forgets to confirm to his own identity and follows the herd mentality. Ionesco said he wrote the play “as a response to the widespread conversion of supposedly free-thinking humans to fascist ideals before and during World War II“. This play has been performed by Adishakti theatre group (Pondicheri) in the Utsav festival (2010) of National School of Drama.
Romeo and Juliet
There has to be something special about this Shakespearean tragedy which catapults us to call every lover Romeo and his beloved as Juliet. The familial feud which leads to the untimely death of the lovers is the basis of the play. An Indian adaptation of the play recently performed in Chandigarh, directed by Sukhmani Kohli and produced by Ceva Drama Repertory, included Bulleh Shah’s poetry in the play, thereby giving it a fresh appeal.
Girish Karnad sketches a visionary ruler eventually turning into a tyrant lusting for power in his play “Tughlaq”. If studied with a deeper insight, one would realize Tughlaq is a satire on the then socio-political situation, which transcends time and fits every period. The play was staged at Firoz Shah Kotla, Delhi in the month of November where highly acclaimed artist Yashpal Sharma, under the direction of Bhanu Sharma, brought to life the character of Tughlaq and ravelled the tyranny that had lasted for 26 years.
My personal favourite, Mohan Rakesh’s Halfway house (Aadhe Adhure in Hindi) underlines how the aspirations of an upper middle class working woman make her too filled with life so that she finds fault with every single man she meets and wanders from one to other, only to figure out in the end that the fault lies in her. “Halfway house” inhabits a halfway family with a run-away daughter, an unemployed son, and a school-going daughter involved in bad company. Well-known theatre veteran Lillete Dubey gained recognition with the character of Savitri, the protagonist of this play staged by Prime Time Theatre Company.
Vijay Tendulkar uses his play to show how political ideologies are invented and abandoned as per the needs of the politicians. Ghashiram Sawaldas, the protagonist of the play, goes through trials of life and the society which demonizes as well as victimizes him. The play was directed by Jabar Patel and first staged in 1972, the time of Peshwa rule in Maharashtra. Written as a political satire against Shiv Sena, it was accused of presenting the Marathi Brahmins in bad light that angered them and led to protests.
Every single word about Lysistrata screams feminist power. Performed in Athens of 411 BC, this play of Aristophanes is a preface to modern day feminism, where the protagonist Lysistrata persuades fellow women not to gratify the sexual demands of their husbands until they agree to end the historical Peloponnesian war. This play’s revised versions became very popular during America’s involvement in Iraq especially in colleges. Drue Robinson Hagen’s Lysistrata – A Woman’s Translation performed by The Gallery Players in 2008 is one of the best.
Many of these plays are seasonal but all those interested can search for adaptations and performances on the internet as they are easily available. Plays such as Waiting for Godot and Aadhe Adhure are performed regularly by theatre houses all over the country, schedules of which are often listed in national dailies and tickets of major auditoriums are available online. Movies can take you only so far, the real connection between the show and audience is most complete in theatre.