– Rachel D’souza
The opening show of Piya Behrupiya in 2012 at the London’s Globe theatre was for an absolutely unfamiliar audience. Usually all our shows are premiered in India. But nonetheless, here we were, in Shakespeare land with an adaptation that had only been previewed at a friend’s home for an audience of about 15 artists.
Although the preview was a success, it could in no way be an indication of how the play would be received by a predominantly English audience of more than a thousand people. We wondered if subtitles would be enough to carry the essence, nuances and the humour. We didn’t know if the adaptation would strike a chord with the audience at all. Moreover, temperature being below 10 degrees, actors were struggling to keep their voices warm and energised to reach out in an iconic open air theatre without much rehearsal.
It truly felt like gearing up for a pandal type massive public rally or something. All performers stepped on stage together with trepidation and some nervous excitement. When the drums rolled to welcome the King Orsino, that was it. Something changed – a connect was discovered with the audience for almost every show thereafter.
There is much truth to Shakespeare’s lines: ‘If music be the food of love, play on’. The Bard turns out to be our best guide and mentor again! One didn’t think that music, song and jubilation can be such a binding factor. From 2012 to 2016, a sea of international faces smiling and swaying to the music for most of our shows is a very cherished memory. Of course, quite often the audience already knows some key moments of the play, and such moments in the play are met with a collective sigh or laugh. But most of the time, it is a song that carries the underlying note or the theme of a scene, whether it’s pathos, longing, teasing or celebration. Other than that of course, is the fact that the performers make Shakespeare their own. He is not just an ancient presence arching over the play, the translation/ adaptation was conceived in such a manner that it includes him along with the actors in enacting the story. And the audience enjoys this as much as we do. This creates the unique ‘here and now’ theatre experience for them.
Piya Behrupiya has now completed more than 150 shows. It has travelled to the places where we never ever imagined that an Indian language play would be appreciated. Audiences across the world – in Serbia, China and even small villages in Chile have shown us time and again that music is a universal language. Everyone enjoys a heartfelt rendition of human emotion.