Adapting the timeless dreamSunil Pokharel’s A Midsummer Night’s Sapana fuses ageless Shakespearean motifs with Nepali sensibilities in an intriguing two-hour spectacle
The Nepali rendition of William Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, currently being staged at the Gothale Natakghar in Shilpee, may be taken as a major achievement, given the austerity it maintains though derived from such a complex source material. It has been translated very well and much effort seems to have been invested to suit the Nepali taste. But it, nonetheless, has been plagued by the same pitfalls that the Nepali renditions of famous Western dramas are often bound to suffer. The effort theatre veterans invest in putting out Nepali renditions of famous foreign plays, for us to relish it in our own mother tongue, certainly is commendable, and, not to forget, they have been putting out decent performances so far, but we are yet to travel a long way and maybe this recent production, titled A Midsummer Night’s Sapana, could for now serve as a pivotal stepping stone.
The play, that chronicles the events that take place within four days, starts off as Maharaj Trichandra Jung (Safar Pokharel) gets engaged. The ambience is gay inside the king’s palace (accentuated by terrific lighting; an extra point, I hasten to add), until it all goes sour. In this particular sequence that puts the patriarchy that has been deeply-rooted in our society in its theatrical crosshairs, the father is all set to marry his daughter Hira off to Kiran (Aavas Adhikari) against her will. After then the play takes a magical turn: characters frolic between personas, fairies rotate, while Indradev, the chief mischief maker, plays tricks on the characters. The play doesn’t lose its intrigue as it progresses through several jokes that have been seemingly adapted to suit Nepali sensibilities fall woefully flat. The audience, however, were roaring in laughter at the face of these oftentimes base populist humour. In that sense, perhaps, the adaptation served its end, even if through dubious means.
Credit is due to the veteran director Sunil Pokharel for pulling off a fine-tuned production even while working with such an amateur cast—the cast include the students from Pokharel’s recent theatre training programme. I was not expecting the all-student ensemble to be an all-star affair but I must say that I was pleasantly surprised with what the cast delivered onstage—performing with much gusto and vigour. Standouts include Anil Subba, playing a role in the play within a play, who, despite some over-the-top attempts at humour, does succeed in piecing the play together as a whole. And then, there is the sneaky, impish Chature (JD Tamu), who with occasional acrobatic gymnastics shines throughout the play. To that end the characters have been cast seamlessly, with all the actors appearing like they were almost born to play their Shakespearean roles—a high-praise for any production.
Then there is the music by Baaja. Music. The folk trio is by far one of the highlights of the play; the band, while performing soothing melodies to keep the atmosphere gay, also take part in the main play which does much to further give the play the sense of Nepaliness.
The set (designed by Anup Baral) is simple yet layered, and is dominated by a lunar backdrop. It does much to add to the verisimilitude of the play and serves as an apt catalyst for all that transpires in the foreground.
Midsummer Night’s Dream has not lost its charm even after more than four centuries, and it’s easy to see why. Because it is a tale that tells volumes about universal and eternal issues as love, lust, marriage, the transience of life and fairies and fantasy. This Nepali adaptation maintains that enduring legacy, and maybe even adds to it.
(A Midsummer Night’s Dream is currently onstage at Shilpee Theatre in Battisputali and will be on till April 17.)