Nepali adaptation of Antigone impresses Bengali crowdThe sound of drums announces the entrance of Creon, ruler of Thebes, as Antigone, sister to the dead Polyneices, huddles in a corner.
The sound of drums announces the entrance of Creon, ruler of Thebes, as Antigone, sister to the dead Polyneices, huddles in a corner. The millennia-old reenactment of the struggle between god’s law and man’s rules, as personified in Antigone and Creon respectively, plays out at the Ritwik International Theatre Festival in Berhampore, West Bengal.
Only this time, Antigone is played by the versatile Srijana Subba and Creon by Bijaya Baral, in a Nepali translation of Sophocles’ classic play, Antigone, from 441 BCE. Although entirely in Nepali, the play was staged to rave reviews on Wednesday evening to a primarily Indian audience at the Ritwik International Theatre Festival, currently ongoing at the Rabindra Sadan in Berhampore. Directed by Rajan Khatiwada and produced by Mandala Theatre, the play had already been staged to Nepali audiences in July 2017.
The hour-and-a-half play had audiences rooted to their seats at the theatre festival. “Audiences here are very hard to impress. If they do not like a play, they just walk out of the hall,” said Biplav Dev, director of the Ritwik Theatre. “Antigone held the attention of the audience throughout the entire performance.”
One of the most famous plays to come out of the classical Greek dramaturgy canon, Antigone weaves its story around themes of civil disobedience, fidelity and citizenship, highlighting one woman’s wisdom and unflinching bravery during a time of crisis. “I loved the overall performance, from the stage setting to acting,” said Pallavi Dutt, who was watching a Nepali play for the first time. “It really didn’t matter that I didn’t understand the Nepali language. It exceeded my expectations.”
The play was translated into Nepali by Som Nath Khanal and Bikram Pariyar, and aside from Baral and Subba in the lead roles, it features actors Umesh Tamang, Pradip Kumar Chaudhary, Som Nath Khanal, Ranjana Oli, and Pashupati Rai.
Following the 2017 staging of the play, The Post’s review of the play had read, “One of the strong points about the rendition is its translation, done with expertise. The dialogues retain the Nepali flavour that any adapted play should have. And with the use of certain colloquial terms, they feel all the more natural… Even though it is just an adaptation Antigone does have its own uniqueness.”
The ongoing festival is organised by the Ritwik Theatre, one of the region’s most prominent theatre groups. The festival is showcasing various plays from India and Bangladesh as well. Mohit Bandhu Adhikari, veteran theatre artist and coordinator of the Festival Organising Committee, said that the festival is being organised to strengthen fraternity and love among theatre groups around the world.
After Antigone’s curtain call, Adhikari handed over a red rose to the play’s actors. In return, director Khatiwada, who is leading the Nepali troupe, presented Adhikari with a Dhaka topi.“These kinds of festivals are important because they make for an occasion to exchange arts and culture between countries and help renew relationships amongst artists,” Adhikari said.