Julius Caesar: A Roman encounter with The Madras Players
Julius Caesar remains one of William Shakespeare’s most admired plays. What inspired Shaan Libby to choose this play and why it remains relevant, we ask her, as she prepares to present an adaptation of the play for The Madras Players today. “Political ambition, misplaced idealism, friendship, betrayal, and revenge — these themes replay time and again over the course of history, and are being played out today in various contexts. This play resonates strongly with our world today in many countries around us, where democracy appears to be losing ground to individualistic strong leaders and effective autocracies,” she says. That said, were there any changes that she was required to bring to the original setting for her adaptation, we ask her. She explains, “Shakespeare had men playing women’s roles. We have some women playing men’s roles. This was inspired by a rendition of Merchant of Venice that I watched last summer at The Globe Theatre, London, where Shylock was played by a woman.”
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Not surprisingly, Shaan’s tryst with the Roman tragedy happened when she was in school. “Along with Macbeth, Julius Caesar remains one of my most favourite Shakespeare plays. Although I have taught or acted in other Shakespeare plays like A Winter’s Tale, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, and Merchant of Venice, this play (Julius Caesar) has such powerful passages that it remains my favourite,” says Shaan, adding, “In fact, I have dedicated this play to two people who rekindled my love of Shakespeare — one is my mother Tehzeeb Katari (who also designed the costumes) and the other is my English teacher.” Tehzeeb has designed the togas (the ancient Roman garment) and the long dresses, we learn, while the music will be entirely classical.
Moving on to the cast of the play, Shaan says she always looked at a 25-plus member cast. “Arjun Chakraverti, who plays the titular character, has not been on stage since his college days,” she informs. The other characters like Cassius, Brutus and Mark Antony are played by PC Ramakrishna, Rishi Raj and Sarvesh Sridhar, respectively. Talking about the other adjustments that she has made to the script, she says, “Act 4 and Act 5 have been made shorter, which delve into a lot of Roman history. None of the language has been changed — some chunks have simply been omitted.”
On March 1, 2 & 3. 7.15 pm. At Museum Theatre.