Friday, 9 May 2014
Theatre review: All's Well That Ends Well (Arpana / Globe to Globe)
Sunil Shanbag's production tells the tale in the Bhangwadi theatrical tradition, which was popular in 1900s Bombay where the action's been relocated. It's a mostly naturalistic style, apart from the songs which punctuate the action as ways for the characters to bare their souls to the audience. Many of these international productions have a physical storytelling style that crosses language barriers, but as evidenced by the laughter from Gujarati speakers in the audience, Bhuta's script and Shanbag's production put most of the comedy in the dialogue; as G2G's surtitles only provide scene synopses rather than a full translation, for non-speakers these witticisms are lost, and the musical interludes provide the best source of entertainment.
The play remains problematic whatever its language and setting; a couple of captions suggested that the Indian caste system was referenced in terms of Bharatram's social superiority to Heli, although I don't know how far that was explored. There's an attempt to soften the blow of the bed trick, which boils down to a sexual assault on Bharatram: But having the Parolles figure, Parbat (Satchit Puranik) blackmail the Diana character, Alkini (Nishi Doshi,) into having sex with his friend opens up a whole other world of problems that's at odds with the overall jolliness. And it is all very jolly, but not this strand's best example of theatre speaking beyond the language barrier.
All's Well That Ends Well by William Shakespeare, in a version by Mihir Bhuta, is booking in repertory until the 10th of May at Shakespeare's Globe.
Running time: 2 hours 25 minutes including interval.