Having grown up in Mumbai, India’s arts and culture capital, theatre has been an integral part of my life. After a long day at university, my mates and I would simply go to the local theatre’s cafe for a bite and mingle amongst the artists – soaking up the atmosphere and ending up meeting some really interesting characters and having very many interesting conversations. Years later living in the increasingly lively Margate and going to Theatre Royal feels like both a luxury and nostalgic treat.
This weekend past, Theatre Royal welcomed Tara Arts with their new production Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Of the Bard’s works, Macbeth, was one I first read when I was too young to understand it and over the years ended up reading it a few times. On some level the play brought back the feeling of discomfort in understanding the language, the struggle to keep up with the pace of events and also made me flinch at the many gruesome deaths. Yet Tara Arts, who brought an elegant element of Asian culture to the production, also cleverly tapped some of the sometimes underplayed comic elements to the play, with the porter particularly relishing her part.
In Tara Arts Macbeth, the witches who foresee Macbeth’s fate as the future King were three hijras (India’s transgender community), bringing an element of colour, humour and entertainment. The crown of the King was replaced by turbans and the swords were replaced by punches and streetfighting, with the action scenes built to a crescendo by a very talented drummer on stage who, whose understated percussion and occasional beatboxing complemented rather than jarred with the minimal, very effective set.
One of the scenes that stood out for me was when Macbeth lost the plot at a feast they had laid out for the Scottish nobility. Macbeth’s insanity was the most apparent as he started seeing the ghost of Banquo, sending him off to an outrage. Another scene that was very well played was that of Lady Macbeth (who also goes insane) sleepwalking and washing her hands constantly to get rid of that famous spot of blood (which only she can see) and being unable to cleanse herself, commits suicide.
Whilst I doff my hat to the Director Jitender Verma and the cast of this new production, I have to mention that I was particularly impressed by the supporting actors, the stage presence of some of whom was comfortably equal to an excellent Robert Mountford and Shaheen Khan playing the characters of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. As for the lines, I didn’t hear one being fluffed all evening.