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OzAsia review: Twelfth Night


This Hindi translation of Shakespeare’s comedic classic Twelfth Night represents an exhilarating and fun-filled meeting of cultures.

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The Company Theatre of Mumbai was founded with an inter-disciplinary, multi-cultural approach to creating new theatre works. Its production of Twelfth Night (which has been performed at the Globe in London) features an all-Indian cast that unites Shakespeare, Bollywood, comedy and traditional Indian culture.

The energetic ensemble act, sing and dance and, although the show is performed in Hindi, there are surtitles and a smattering of English. However, the language doesn’t matter as the performers are all talented, charismatic and charming.

A large painting of Shakespeare, looking like a maharajah, looks out over the cast and audience as if he is giving his blessing.

This production of Twelfth Night is great fun: the words of the Bard are not always there, but the show retains the essence of the play’s twists and turns, comedy and drama, brought about by the mistaken identity that results from young Viola’s need to go in disguise as a boy named Cesario after she is separated from her twin brother in a shipwreck.   It is surprising how a change of clothing and a little make-up can mean individuals suddenly find their sexual orientation questioned.

Titas Dutta is totally gorgeous as Viola and in disguise as Cesario, who enters the service of Duke Orsino; she radiates enthusiasm and life as she sings, dances and jokes with the audience. This company has glimpses of the brilliance of Shakespeare as it effortlessly  switches from raucous comedy to pathos and drama in an instant, especially through song. oz-asia-twelfth-night-4

When Viola is spot-lit downstage, singing a song of heartbreak, we are suddenly immersed in deep emotional feelings for her. Similarly with Olivia, after all the fun with her steward Malvolio, who is led to believe she loves him, and her clear rejection of Orsino, we experience the power of Shakespeare as she stands transfixed with her own grief and misfortune.

These moments of drama are instantly transformed back into the comic realm by these masters of comedy. Malvolio’s humiliation, when he appears in yellow stockings, is very funny and sad – all that Shakespeare could have hoped for – and jos desperate appeal for love in the curtain call continues to blend pathos and bathos.

The Company Theatre of Mumbai is a genuine ensemble; the members know their Shakespeare and they know how to perform and entertain.  Their Bollywood version of Twelfth Night is a genuine meeting of cultures and their zest for life is exhilarating.

The Company Theatre of Mumbai presented Twelfth Night (Piya Behrupiya) in the Ukiyo Tent in Elder park on September 23 and 24 as part of the OzAsia Festival.

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