Play Review: ‘I Don’t Like It. As You Like It’

I don't like it

Director Rajat Kapoor has given three big Shakespearean tragedies his clown treatment. His plays Hamlet – The Clown Prince, Nothing Like Lear and most recently Macbeth all have clowns enacting Shakespearean characters or roles based on them. He tackles a Shakespeare comedy, As You Like It, for the first time in I Don’t Like It. As You Like It, which opened the second edition of Aadyam. This is his fifth clown play in all, the first being C for Clown, which had nothing to do with Shakespeare. The fear therefore was that Kapoor might have wrung the clown device out of steam. He hasn’t, for I Don’t Like It is a boisterous adaptation, full of moments of high silliness and perfectly-timed comedy.

The play acknowledges that while As You Like It has some poetically romantic moments, it’s for the most part a maudlin and rather idiotic story. On the whole, the production comes across as an affectionate ribbing of Shakespeare’s comedy. A group of clowns attempts to stage As You Like It under Popo (Joy Fernandes), a baton-wielding director quick to strike an errant actor’s rear. The romantic interests among the clowns mirror the characters that they play and the comedy arises out of the friction between real life and stage personas.

Coco (Aadar Malik) and Mimi (Faezeh Jalali) are excitable young lovers unable to keep their hands off each other – until they start rehearsing the parts of Orlando and Rosalind. That’s when latent insecurities erupt into petty fights. Similarly Fifi (Shruti Vyas) and Fido (Vinay Pathak) parallel Phoebe and Silvius. Fido is slavishly crazy about Fifi, who treats him like her valet and flirts with other men. Soso (Cyrus Sahukar), who’s given the role of melancholy Jacques, is in a relationship with his sock puppet Toto. The newest entrant in the troupe Gigi (Rytasha Rathore), a floppy hat-wearing, neck ruff-toting clown from France, stokes rivalries among her chaotic, egotistical peers.

The chemistry between the actors is palpable as they verbally joust with each other, rarely missing a beat. There’s a spontaneity to the action, especially the bits in which the clowns goof around. Jalali’s athleticism, one of the high points of Tim Supple’s 2006 production A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which she performed malkhamb on swathes of fabric, is once again on display. She’s a whirligig of motion. Pathak, who plays a tragicomic clown in Nothing Like Lear, channels the same mix of sadness and humour while portraying Fido. Rathore, an arresting presence on stage, is hilarious with her comic French accent. Last year, she played Jessica in Vickram Kapadia’s Merchant of Venice, which opened the first edition of Aadyam. The play is forgettable but she stayed in one’s memory. Sahukar is, expectedly, a hoot as he lumbers about the stage with comic ungainliness and converses with his best mate Toto.

I Don’t Like It. As You Like It will be staged on Friday, March 25 at 7.30pm and Saturday, March 26 at 4pm and 7.30pm at St. Andrew’s Auditorium, St. Andrew’s College, St. Dominic Road, Bandra (West). Tel: 022 2640 1657. Tickets priced at Rs300, Rs500, Rs750 and Rs1,000 per head are being sold on Bookmyshow.com. Get directions to the venue here

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