King Lear, the clown

What happens when a depressed, ageing clown is made to perform King Lear? This experimental new play by Rajat Kapoor, much of whose lines were improvised during rehearsals, answers just that

Since 1993, the year when it was formed, The Company Theatre (TCT) has been bringing a number of innovative and quality productions on to the stage. And this time, it's going to be no different. Honouring their tradition of working with Rajat Kapoor and his company Cinematograph, TCT's latest offering Nothing Like Lear has a lot to do with William Shakespeare's tragic hero King Lear.

In the play, which will be enacted in English and gibberish, a down-on-luck clown has not stopped crying for days -- he's depressed, a loved one has left him for good and he's growing old. In the midst of his personal turmoil, he has to perform King Lear  -- said to be one of Shakespeare's most tragic plays.

Directed by Rajat Kapoor, this play's performances will be split between Vinay Pathak and TCT's artistic director Atul Kumar. Which means for 80 minutes, all the audience gets to see is an actor playing a clown attempting to enact King Lear. This was enough to unnerve even a seasoned actor like Kumar. "I missed throwing ideas around with my fellow clowns. It requires physical strength and I'm ageing, so it was a challenge,"  he jokes.
Nothing Like Lear is a devised performance -- there was no script to base rehearsals on. It all came together through improvisations. Notes and pointers were made to facilitate the process but a hardbound script was not the starting point. The play is also peppered with personal experiences.

The rehearsal process for the play, Kumar says, was full of failure because that is what working with improvisations entails. He adds that nine out of ten times you fail, but something somewhere sparks and once you latch onto it, you build over it. It also helped that a fellow actor was present. "Vinay (Pathak) was also exploring (the play) with me. Whenever I would hit a wall, he'd take over," says Kumar.

To make a clown perform a Shakespearean play may seem befuddling to some. However, this is not the first time that the group has tried this form of clown theatre. Their previous plays include C for Clown that was in gibberish, and Hamlet -- the Clown Prince, which was based on the Bard's Hamlet. Kumar explains, "I don't really know why we do it. I think it's because we are exploring the clowns within us. The clown has become our language to communicate."

At:  6 and 9 pm on Feb 11, 12, 17, 18, 19; Prithvi Theatre, 20 Janki Kutir, Juhu
Call:  26149546

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