Sunday, 30 December 2012

As you like it (as long as it's in Georgian)

I don't pick out the finer nuances in dialogue delivery, body language, voice modulation, language, diction etc. I can't quote dialogues. I don't notice the detailing in the stage props, lighting and sound effects. I am not an intellectual although I like to think otherwise. The truth is, at worst I am a pseudo intellectual and at best I enjoy watching theater. I am not even sure if I have placed the comma at the right place in the previous sentence. I also confess that I have to fight the urge to wear a kurta every time I go out to watch a play.

Until recently, I used to think the only reason Shakespeare's plays continued to be staged was for the pompous value that actors got from delivering those oft-quoted quotable quotes. The plays have been rehashed, remade, Indianised, Malayalilised, Wodehouseised etc. to no longer hold any novelty value for me. The only reason that I wanted to watch the performance of Marjanishvili Theatre's version of 'As you like it' (Rogorts Genebot in Georgian) was for the '(pseudo)intellectual quotient' I would gain by going around telling people that I watched a Georgian play with English subtitles.

So one Sunday morning in early November, we woke up and got ourselves to Ranga Shankara to watch the performance of a Georgian troupe without quite knowing how the subtitles will appear. I was thinking there would be some guy holding charts/placards in front of the stage. It turned out to be a boring projection of a PPT slideshow. The subtitles were more like subtexts but they really didn't matter. At some points during the performance the slides were wrong and they were either changed late or the person handling the PPT slide show ended up jumping slides. Like I said, it really didn't matter.

Within a matter of seconds, the stage at Ranga Shankara turned into another stage. There was a play within a play. As you like it was being played out by the Marjanishvili Theatre on a mini-stage and the rest of the Ranga Shankara stage turned out to be the backstage of the mini-stage. I wish I had a better picture that could explain the mess of the previous statements than the photo below that came up first in Google. But I think this Guardian review has done a better job - "Its conception of Arden is of a small, makeshift stage – theatre within theatre. Throughout, you see the cast offstage: their camaraderie, chess games, squabbles, vanities. It's charming but also fitting..."


All the action that happens backstage happens on stage and you really lose track of the slide show with the subtexts. There are cast members hiding behind cupboards and making out. One actor having a dialogue coach prompting him throughout. Stunt dummies used for a fight sequence. Dry autumn leaves falling on stage. A fish doll prop being thrown on to the stage followed by a pair of boots. Cast members mimicking bird sounds and singing the background score and providing the sound effects. In between all of this, 'As you like it' is played out in its entirety (or so I think because a.It was in Georgian and b.I haven't read it yet). I didn't know the famous line "All the world's a stage" was from this play. After finding out that the line was from this play I could understand why the Guardian reviewer called the play within play treatment fitting. When you have a stage on a stage and an actor spouting those words - All the world's a stage - the setting reiterates the line. Now that I think of it, I am not even sure where the line came during the whole performance but what a performance it was!

The music was super. The cast was animated, energetic and brilliant! The lady who played the role of Celia was extremely pretty! It was, by far, my most memorable theater watching experience. Evam's rendition of '39 Steps' comes close in terms of energy but it did have its flaws. I couldn't pick out a single flaw in Marjanishvili Theatre's performance (maybe because of the fact that I don't know Georgian). There was the bungling up of the subtitle PPT slides but the slide show, like I have mentioned before, really didn't matter.

At the end of the performance, probably the only thing that had me flummoxed was how on earth did the person sitting next to me manage to fall asleep during some parts of the play.