You know how you can simply not hear of something for ages, and then suddenly it appears everywhere? That is kind of how it is for this Drammy Committee Member and Shakespeare’s Cymbeline. I swear I had gone 50 years without seeing a production, and then suddenly versions of the strange little play turned up all over the place…Northwest Classical Theatre Company’s imaginative, fairytale version of a couple of years ago, directed by Don Alder, Portland Center Stage’s “Amazing” version, (ditto, directed by Chris Coleman, complete with piano player and the “authentic, original” pronunciation vouchsafed by David and Ben Crystal , and this summer’s outdoor production by Portland Actors’ Ensemble (and I am sure I have probably missed a few).
So I should not have been surprised to see that one of the few live theatre offerings at Alnwick Playhouse (pictured above) was…yes, you’ve guessed it! (Alnwick Playhouse has no resident players, but does provide a very nice stage and auditorium for guest companies, many of whom are excellent. The rest of the time it offers movies (including NT Live productions), concerts, and a venue for the local high school’s twice-yearly offerings. What was rather more surprising was that this Cymbeline, offered by Phizzical, in association with the Belgrade Theatre Coventry, was transposed to Bollywood.
I met my friend from the train (we Drammy Folk travel in pairs…though of course when we (wo)man the European (or any other outside Portland) Office of Drammy Towers we pay for our tickets!), and warned her of the evening’s entertainment, saying we could leave at intermission if necessary. As we approached the bus stop, we saw a group of beautiful/handsome young people who looked very much as though they could represent Bolly-or-Hollywood. “Tonight’s cast,” I joked. And lo! It was. Two thirds of the cast anyway (all roles played by six actors). And they were utterly delightful. They explained that names, including characters and places, had been changed, along with a few lines, and a few cuts, but that Shakespeare’s text was still very much respected. We realized, of course, that even if we DIDN’T like the show, there was now NO way we could leave at intermission!
Pictured from left, are Tony Hasnath (Narrator, Bharti, Yakim, Girdhar), Nicholas Gauci (Cymbeline, Cloten), Robby Khela (Pisanwa, Arjun, Eunuch, Ravi), and Liz Jadav (Malika, Bela, Dance, Eunuch). The remaining two actors, Sophie Khan Levy (Innojaan) and Adam Youssefbeygi (Sherrudin Khan, Dr. Cornelius, Eunuch), both pictured above top, together, had traveled with the set, in a van.
We need not have worried. The story transposed wonderfully (Cloten as big-headed Bollywood Super Star, for example) and the show was a blast, particularly in the second half (which I always prefer!). The physicality was phenomenal…dancing, miming, fighting (I was in awe of the sword and staff twirling, particularly in the mimed war scene), leaping, and lunging, and the singing touched the heart, especially in “Fear no more the heat of the sun” (Perhaps the best version I’ve ever heard). There’s little point in writing a review here, as no readers of this post will get to see this show. But here’s a link to other people’s thoughts.
Staying through intermission also gave us the pleasure of a tub of Doddington’s Ice Cream (the best, the best). Dod’s does fabulous flavors, including Newcastle Brown Ale (chew on THAT, Salt and Straw), though I stuck to Heather Honey, and it was excellent.
Lesson learned? I will always take a chance, and buy a ticket. And almost always I am pleasantly surprised. Cymbeline in Bollywood was no exception.
Live theatre? I love it.
See you soon, back in beautiful Portland.