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'It's almost like a musical without music'

Meherzad Patel’s latest play, The Buckingham Secret is a crackling comedy on the British royal family

Meherzad Patel might have come a long way with his theatre production company, Silly Point Productions but the itch to be immemorial hasn’t yet been scratched for the young playwright and director. Ready with his latest play and an NCPA production, The Buckingham Secret, Patel hopes that this one finally gets him in the annals of history.

Sabira Merchant (in red) will be enthralling the audiences by playing the character of Queen Elizabeth II
Sabira Merchant (in red) will be enthralling the audiences by playing the character of Queen Elizabeth II

The journey on this comedy for Patel started way back in September last year. He drafted the play on the royal family of Britain for six months hence, before the dialogues were rehearsed by a cast that includes Sabira Merchant, Danesh Irani, Nauheed Cyrusi, Azmin Mistry and Sajeel Parakh.

Nauheed Cyrusi plays the part of the Duchess of Cambridge.
Nauheed Cyrusi plays the part of the Duchess of Cambridge. Pics/Sameer Markande

“I have approached most of my plays from a remote angle and tried to arrive at some sort of truth. For instance, Like Dat Only was about teenage issues, Rusty Screws was about a family, and the Class Act was about an acting class; but none of my plays were timeless. The Buckingham Palace, on the other hand, as a topic is universal. For example, Lady Diana’s passing away was spoken of as the most mournful day on the earth.”

Laugh, my dear
Injecting the epitome of British conduct — the monarchy, namely Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, Prince Harry, Prince William and others — with a dose of frailties and follies, Patel has cleverly exploited the humour in such situations. “Everyone knows the British royal family who are regal on the outside but on the inside, I have let my imagination run loose as I have shown the family with a twist. The queen, for example, is shown as a grandmother who gets demands from her grandsons as well as a mother who has raised a son.”

Exploring how the royal butler is the only one who knows of the ‘secret’, Patel has staged several interesting scenarios. As an example, he cites the incident where the royal family comes to the balcony and waves but is talking something one usually doesn’t hear. In that respect, Prince Philip promises to get the maximum chuckles for his foot-in-mouth tendency as well.

Known to poke fun at the Parsis’ eccentricities, Patel jibes at their loyalty towards the former empire in this play: “You will see a photo frame of Queen Victoria in every Parsi’s house, calling it ‘apri rani’ (our own queen). I wanted to target this nostalgia many Parsis have towards the British empire who think that Queen Victoria should have still ruled the country.”

Beauty lies in the details
“From the set of the palace to the costumes and make-up, every detail has been attended to,” shares Patel as he wraps up the third make-up trial. Patel further informs us that an accent trainer was also hired.

Meherzad Patel, director
Meherzad Patel, director

Speaking of challenges, he brushes away directing Merchant as one and informs, “Sabira has been on stage for
50 years, while I have only been alive for the last 28, yet she was the most punctual actor and always ready to rehearse.”

Contrarily, casting for the 93-year-old Prince Philip was unnerving, he says: “A 24-year-old person playing a 93-year-old has been the best casting choice. To try out if any one could make out Danesh Irani’s actual age, we took him to the next-door neighbour who actually thought that this was an old man standing within three feet of him.”

On: September 13, 14 and 28, October 5, 7 pm
At: Tata Theatre, NCPA, Nariman Point.
Call: 22824567

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