With a formidable cast and Rajat Kapoor as the director at the helm, the production of ‘What’s done is done’, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, gives us many reasons to rejoice, going beyond the re-imaginings of the weighty tragedy.
Not only is the work an homage to the troubled soldier who became king, the artistic license exploited by the director always remained in good hands and did not affect my sensibilities of the play itself. But let’s get the cons out of the way first.
The production is part of a series of adaptations of Shakespeare’s works marrying the clown tradition, where the actors perform in clown-face, sometimes converse in gibberish and live out their lives in the clown universe, using the plot points for a play within a play, and as a bonus, create situations closely paralleling the plot of the play, interweaving with the play within the play.
Whereas most of the previous productions sought to establish the clown aspect of the concept, I felt this play started off with the same intentions, but abandoned it at some point, in furtherance of the plot. By the end, the use of accents was only justifiable with the clever inclusion of two characters, Julio (Jim Sarbh) and Pedro (Vinay Pathak). They acted as fantastic fillers between acts, were so wonderful, I’d just watch a play with the two of them. A special mention must be made of the clown make-up which, as ever, was on point.
The accents used by the characters were a sore point, with many of the actors giving up on speaking in the accents they started off with. Only Julio and Pedro seemed to adhere to them faithfully.
Now on to the good parts; it was a stroke of genius to have the 3 ladies who played the witches, also each play Lady Macbeth simultaneously on stage, given the breadth and depth of her character, and also to spookily reinforce the influence Macbeth was under when he did what he did.Julio, Julio, Julio; my heart was gladdened by the sweet janitor from Mexico who was the noblest character in the plot. Jim Sarbh breathed life into the part of a tragicomic fool who along with Vinay Pathak (playing Pedro, the other janitor) weaved in absurdity, song-and-dance and just the right nudges to the audience to piece plot points together. Vinay Pathak has been the single recurring feature in all of these themed productions, and brings an active (and reactive) yet assured tone to the characters he has assayed, and is a joy to watch.
At some point, Julio and Pedro, who incidentally claim to be the producers of the play, talk about why it won’t do very well. Julio points out the poor trajectory of Macbeth’s character growth and change. While this self-awareness is good to have, it doesn’t excuse the fact that there was little to show that Macbeth was ever loyal, gracious and had any redeeming qualities and from which he spiralled out into a conniving, overambitious man whose boots got too big for him.
Sujay Saple portrayed Banquo well, bankably. In the friendship between Macbeth and Banquo, the familiarity and suggestion of their existing companionship seemed to come mostly from Banquo’s acting and lines. It was a clever device for him to let down his long locks in the afterlife. But one thing peeved me, him using ‘Monsieur – Madame’ when they’re supposed to be Italian and speaking in Italian accents.
Ranvir Shorey played Macbeth, or Macky B, in this adaptation. Although a talented actor, I believe he started to come into his own only after he becomes Macbeth, King of Scotland. His emoting of the soldier lost in the forest, and as the Thane of Cawdor was awkward as he did not seem to know how to straddle the absurd, modernistic aspect of the play with the consumed and conflicted character taking the plot forward in the play. And perhaps I am biased towards the beautiful speech at the end, but Macky B moved me, as realization dawned and his will to live crumbled and he quoted ‘Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player…’.
Now to the three women who played Lady Macky B. Kalki Koechlin, Tillotama Shome and Sheena Khalid looked beautiful and haunting on the stage. But their dialogue delivery left a lot wanting, and their subsuming of Macky B’s psyche didn’t come across so powerfully even though it was at a ratio of 3:1. Given the complexity of Lady Macbeth’s character, I would’ve thought there would be more drama even between the 3 women. While it worked for the stage blocking and overall effect to have 3 women playing her, perhaps it prevented each actor who played her from fully envisioning or realising the consequences of her instigation.
But apart from just a rendering of the tale, there are exquisite sequences with no dialogue, which take place in slow motion to a beautiful classical score, the trademark chaos of the clown Shakespeare party scene which Rajat Kapoor has perfected. The seamless transition between scenes and acts. A special mention should be made of the score used in the play, which was haunting, pained, cheery as and when the story demanded it.
While there are sore points, and definitely huge room for improvement, they have brought us something that is a delight to experience and will not come along too often. Don’t miss it. Once it’s done, it’s done.
‘What’s done is done’ was adapted from ‘Macbeth’ written by William Shakespeare, directed by Rajat Kapoor, and was staged at the Jamshed Bhabha theatre, NCPA, Mumbai on June 05, 2016.