STAGED “Importance of Being Earnest” was proof that the quality of the city’s theatre scene is intact. But why are there so few takers? MANASA P. VASUDEVAN
The biggest handicap faced by all-women theatre groups is to convincingly don a man’s role. The Stellar Players’ “Importance of Being Earnest”, an adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s classic comedy, staged recently at the Alliance Française, disproved this statement entirely. The leads, Tanvi Patel and Nayantara Nair, played their roles as well as, if not better, than any man. However, Irene Lal Mechery’s performance as the ambitious butler Theru impressed the most. Her body language, accent, swagger and sense of comic timing did not miss a beat.
The story is about two best friends Hopesh Hemdev (Tanvi Patel) and Thiruvanmiyur (Nayantara Nayar) who share a chemistry not unlike Charlie-Alan, Sherlock-Watson and other iconic duos. In their pursuit to win the hand of their respective lady loves, Gitanjali (Priyanka Kumar) and Chandini (Mrinali Fernandez), they overcome all obstacles in their way — their names, Rani Hemdev, Hopesh’s food fixation, tax collectors and so on. Despite the limited storyline, the script maintained a fast pace, dialogues were witty and delivered precisely. The jokes followed a rhythm tested by Oscar Wilde himself and popular comedians of more recent times, playing to the gallery. The sets were aesthetically appealing and minimalistic facilitating efficient scene change. It was at this time that the character Raj Badshah, who appeared quite redundant until then, redeemed his standing in the play by “breaking the fourth wall” and addressing the audience.
The production team could have paid closer attention to sound. An original and catchy sound track may have offered respite from the otherwise verbose nature of the play. The costumes and make-up deserve special mention; not only did the characters look their gender, they looked their age as well.
The past week saw more than one play in the city and the audience turnout for all has been disheartening. Save classmates, friends and family, the audience offers little or no diversity.True, “Importance of Being Earnest” ran to full houses courtesy innovative and effective use of marketing forums. The trailer on YouTube though a little late in the coming, was able to sustain the week-long hype. Yet the general audience comprised the customary Stella Maris students and friends and family of the cast and crew. It’s time Chennai had a theatre-going audience who are as in tune with the theatre scene, as they are with the cinema scene. I mean, if Saravana Bhavan vadas and laddoos, the true heroes of the said play, cannot lure this kind of an audience, pray what will?
Manasa is a final year BSc. Electronic Media student at MOP Vaishnav College for Women.
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