Bowled over by the bard: Helen O’ Grady’s The Tempest debuts in Chennai
When you take the dialogues out of a Shakespearean play, you’d imagine that there wouldn’t be much left to convey. But that’s exactly what Helen O’Grady (HoG) International — The EduDrama Academy did. They came up with a musical pantomime for the first time back in 2015, and chose Shakespeare’s The Tempest to work with. “From the whole lot of plays we considered, The Tempest lent itself to mime, as there are so many characters, including the mystical creatures such as Ariel and Caliban in it, and we thought it would be ideal for an engaging performance,” says Archana Dange, head of operations of HoG.
Time for mime
The hour-long pantomime performance is now set to be staged by the same team for their 35th time overall, and for the first time in Chennai. With a crew of 19 actors (aged 18-24), the show employs music, dance and recorded soliloquies. And every time the mime is staged, there’s a fair amount of improvisation added to the performance.“The actors themselves come up with ideas on how they can improvise their characters. While we stick to the main script, we keep adding and subtracting subtle details that we feel will bring more impact to the characterisation,” says Archana.
Beyond the fun
As the play heads out to tour Mumbai, Nagpur and Goa, Archana says the idea is to take it to every major city in India, especially as it’s doing exceptionally well with children. “It’s understandable how with Shakespeare, one can get carried away with its long lines and word plays, to an extent that the plot itself gets lost. But once we started doing the play, we realised that the basic story is identifiable to kids and adults alike. It talks about basic human emotions such as love, honesty and betrayal— all of which we see around us,” Archana adds. With a focus on music, dance and gestural theatrical elements, the mime was created specifically for children. “There’s a lot happening for adults in terms of performance theatre, but not enough for kids. So when we ask the kids not to get addicted to video games and TV, it becomes our duty to provide them alternatives,” says Archana. She adds that the institute has a bunch of plays lined up, including fresh adaptations of The Red Elephant by Tripurari Sharma and Shakuntala by Kalidasa.
10 am, 12.30 pm and 6 pm, At Mylapore Fine Arts Club. Entry from `250 (kids).