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To teehee or not to teehee?

It’s an absolute rarity that a play seen five years back can still make you simper by its sheer name. Hamlet – The Clown Prince, is one such play that has often evoked rambunctious and bellyaching laughter in India, England, Amsterdam, Israel, Shanghai, Jakarta with its ensemble of mind-boggling clowns.

Hamlet-The Clown Prince
Rehearsal stills of the play Hamlet — The Clown Prince. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

Stellar performances by Atul Kumar, Rachel D’ Souza, Kalki Koechlin, Neil Bhoopalam, Puja Sarup, Sujay Saple and Namit Das; these talented bunch of actors will leave you guffawing over plot commentary and Lion King allusions in the same breath.

In retrospect, Rajat Kapoor, the director of the play, shares, “It has been one of the biggest pleasures to perform in front of so many different kinds of audiences and cultures.”

Pondering on how his play has managed to entertain such varied audiences, we feel that the striking note is well, the clowns, in the midst of a Shakespearean tragedy. “My first play, Sea for Clowns and the play after Hamlet, Nothing Like Lear; both had clowns. They are able to give your purity as they are devoid of any social standing. Thus, when they emote happiness or sadness, one feels real joy or pathos in their case,” expounds Kapoor.

The feat of successfully reinventing the bard definitely deserves much pride; Kapoor satisfyingly relates, how the love story between Hamlet and Ophelia intrigued him the most and formed the crux of the play. He cites the juxtaposition of the famous soliloquy, ‘To Be or Not to Be’ and Ophelia’s speech in the play as one of his favourite moments.

The play deserves its spot under the sun with its brilliant use of gibberish that has thrown many off-track in its initial utterance. Kapoor narrates that it was through a series of improvisations during the Sea of Clowns that he discovered gibberish as “an expressive language for the clowns”. Sharing his excitement, for the upcoming eight shows at Prithvi Theatre’s intimate space, Kapoor signs off by saying, “it’s like a homecoming for us.”

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