Scene from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet reinterpreted 24 times!

Updated: Nov 17, 2016, 15:59 IST | Krutika Behrawala

A new interactive concept gives you the power to reinterpret a scene from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet at the click of a mouse

Kalki Koechlin and Adil Hussain as Romeo and Juliet enact the scene for the cultural divide interpretation in an auditorium setting
Kalki Koechlin and Adil Hussain as Romeo and Juliet enact the scene for the cultural divide interpretation in an auditorium setting

“O ROMEO, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?” sighs Kalki Koechlin, decked in a red saree from the window of a paint-peeled Indian haveli, as she laments the misfortunes of Romeo being a Montague in the balcony scene from William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. Dressed in a kurta-pyjama, Adil Hussain leans over from the other window in the three minute scene on a website, Mix The Play.

Koechlin with Tushar Pandey in a Victorian on-location setting
Koechlin with Tushar Pandey in a Victorian on-location setting

We feel the on-location setting stifles the actors’ body movements. So, we use our cursor to move to the previous step and change the setting to an auditorium. Now, the pair appear on a stage, separated by a wooden partition. While we pick a heart-thumping background score, you can also opt for a lighter melody and swap the duo for two other actors — Kriti Pant and Tushar Pandey. When you create the scene, you also get the director’s credit on the poster. That’s the aim of Mix The Play. It allows you to control a range of elements using pre-recorded film samples and effects. Launched in India last week by the British Council, the concept is part of its year-long celebrations to mark 400 years of the Bard.

Hussain and Kriti Pant on a Victorian set created for stage
Hussain and Kriti Pant on a Victorian set created for stage

Concept connect
“Mix the Play is an interactive digital theatre platform that helps you learn about stage direction. It is about celebrating Indian culture, artists and performers, and is part of our strategy to use digital innovation and mobile technology to reach millions of people, especially younger crowds,” says Alan Gemmell, director - India, British Council. The concept was launched globally in June with a scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, produced in collaboration with UK-based The Old Vic Theatre, which is also available on the website. Mix The Play is a special edition of international project, Mix The City, where you can play a DJ, to be launched in India too.

Roysten Abel with Alan Gemmell at the launch in Delhi last week
Roysten Abel with Alan Gemmell at the launch in Delhi last week

Bard on film
For Romeo & Juliet, the team collaborated with Roysten Abel, who worked with the creative agency, Flying Object, and directed the samples. Abel is known for staging notable versions of Shakespeare plays, including Othello: A Play in Black and White, depicting a group of actors rehearsing Othello and coming to terms with the issues of elitism and racism within the play. “The production design and the way you interpret Shakespeare is similar to how you would do it on stage. However, this concept combines film and theatre, which is novel,” he says.

You get the director’s credit on the poster and can share your version on social media platforms
You get the director’s credit on the poster and can share your version on social media platforms

The scene includes three interpretations — a traditional one portraying the Montague-Capulet family feud, a cultural divide that sees Romeo and Juliet in an Indian setting and a modern version where Romeo works for a corporation while Juliet is an artist.

Each interpretation includes two production design options —on location and auditorium. For instance, the traditional stage setting sees the actors in in ruffle-sleeved shirts and gowns. The modern on-location setting transports them to a coffee shop. “In all, we shot 24 interpretations of one scene, and that too, in three days. The challenge was to ensure each looked fresh since the actors were enacting the same scene. You need actors who are brave and emotionally strong, and Kalki and Adil were the perfect choices,” sums up Abel.

Log on to: www.mixtheplay.britishcouncil.org

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