After months of (what was definitely) hard work, Mr Darshan, Ms Savita and the actors, with the complete involvement and support of Mr Gardner, finally put up what I think was one of the best pieces of theatre I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. (Now, that mightn’t be a high bar but I felt the need to mention it.) There was a palpable sense of excitement in the third floor corridor right since the casting list was put up, and it wasn’t unusual to hear actors mention “the Shakespeare thing” twice, even thrice, daily in order to justify absence from blocks and/or the lack of energy to converse. I understand, now better than ever, why this was a highly anticipated evening for everyone who was a part of it and even for those who weren’t.

On walking into the seventh floor hall I was, firstly, surprised to see the lack of elaborate costumes, complicated sets and nervous actors. I would later learn that the choice to dress each of the characters in minimalistic, simple clothing was one of the many fantastic decisions that the production team took (perhaps more fantastic than their decision to have Aryan and Pallon play Lysander and Demetrius, even). Mr Gardner started off with what I think was an anecdote that every student in the room could relate to – a discussion about Shakespeare during the admission interview. Shortly after, the excerpts began.

The excerpt from As You Like It (or, as I like to call it, “Silvius’ heartbreaking rejection”) was perhaps the most dressed up excerpt of the evening. I thoroughly enjoyed the musical transitions and the curt, almost funny, background slide (Rosalind + Orlando). What was most enjoyable was watching Prady writhe in pain over “PHEEEEBBEEEE!” “We put in a lot of effort,” was all he had to say about the night. Watching “Pheeeebee’s” (Avanti’s) fascination with Rosalind (Freya) was fascinating too, to say the least.

It was, perhaps, as a result of the overwhelming courtship that Avanti put her through that Freya was at a loss for words by the time she had to introduce Cymbeline (yes, very literally a loss for words).

Cymbeline was a much grittier excerpt than As You Like It. It began with Innogen (Aarushi), the Queen (Tamanna) and Posthumus (Samriddh) assuming statue-esque presences on what was now almost a bare stage. All three of them were moving in their roles, to say the very least, and their fear of Cymbeline actually had me dreading his entrance. (Parshva was SO natural as an evil, dreaded father.)

Macbeth probably made for the most riveting monologues and it was, as expected, one of the darkest excerpts of the evening. Jay’s facial scar was perhaps the best make-up of the evening (maybe even as well done as the lute around Siddhant’s head later in the evening). Both Adelle and Jay delivered powerful soliloquies (captivating enough to capture the audience despite being alone on stage). Jay’s (Macbeth’s) change of expression on Adelle’s (Lady Macbeth’s) entrance was phenomenally punctuated by an intense background score and frightening flashes of red light. Jay was so absorbed by the end of it, he seemed to have forgotten that he had to bow (perhaps he wanted to do another scene?).

The most popular excerpt of the night (gauging from the audience’s reaction) was probably The Taming of the Shrew. Nikhil’s gripping (he seemed to have taken this word far too literally) portrayal of a young man, Petruchio, who wants to “tame” Katherine (essayed in an absolutely frightening manner by Bhaviska) elicited more laughter from the audience than just about everything else. Right from when he spread his legs and asked Bhavishka to “sit on him,” Nikhil left the audience in splits. Nikhil’s reactions to being slapped thrice were priceless enough to have Mr Paul say, “Even I wanted to slap Nikhil!” (The slaps were very real, says Bhaviska.) Bhaviska’s relentless screaming was (much like the rest of the excerpt) very authentic and I can only imagine what that sounded like from outside the room.

After a brief interval, King Lear commenced. Very different from every other excerpt, King Lear involved perhaps a dozen characters on stage, many of whom were mute throughout the scene. They did, however, contribute to making the rather modern seventh floor hall seem like King Lear’s court. (It was extremely satisfying to see about ten people follow Krish out in such an orderly fashion.) Yahan and Krish did a stellar job screaming at each other in full excitement and it was fun, albeit unnecessary, to see the extras’ reactions to the intense argument.

The last (and the longest) excerpt was from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was very evident (right from when Dhvansi scurried on stage to place swords) that this was going to be hilarious. Now, owing to Pallon and Aryan’s adrenaline-filled delightful slapstick physicality, I can’t possibly elucidate (at least, not in words) all that happened (Language as a Way of Knowing), but here are some of the highlights:

  • Aryan Bhatia did a Pencil Roll on stage

  • Pallon was being chased off stage by Diya (very literally, he SPRINTED)

  • Bhatia did pushups on stage while Diya and Lyalah were in an intense argument

  • Pallon had an inhaler as a prop for when he was too tired after wrestling with Aryan (I suspect he ACTUALLY needed it)

  • Aryan and Pallon LITERALLY wrestled on stage (I believe this was mostly improvisation. They had to assume many unflattering positions.)

  • Pallon KICKING Aryan using alternate legs, hopping in the process

     

Lyalah did a top-notch job chasing Diya in full fury. It was perhaps the one scene from the entire excerpt that probably didn’t require ANY preparation. (Hunting people down and breaking through human barricades is Ms Mobedji’s bread and butter. Try reminding her of her Zoroastrianism to experience it.)

The cast, very rightly, got a standing ovation after a truly marvellous performance. Mr Gardner, Mr Darshan and Ms Savita did an outstanding job putting the medley together. By the end of it, even Mr Paul was speechless (he LITERALLY couldn’t think of a profound, witty thing to say), and everyone slapped Nikhil. In case you missed it, Mr Shantanu (who called the entire night “Incredibly Insta-worthy”) has uploaded photos and GIFs on Instagram. Take a gander!

– Anshul Choudhari

(Photos taken by Parthivi)

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM

MACBETH

THE TAMING OF THE SHREW

CYMBELINE

AS YOU LIKE IT

KING LEAR