‘Let me be what I am and seek not to alter me’
This week, I was kindly given the opportunity to attend a Media Call for The RSC’s newest Bollywood-esque interpretation of Much Ado About Nothing.
We are part of a generation that’s brought up to be so politically correct, and almost afraid to point out the obvious through fear of being caught in a battle of ‘You can’t say that’s and ‘Careful who you’re speaking to’s. In this performance we were shouted at, heckled, embraced and entertained with a level of welcome intrusiveness and brashness that only the Indian culture could pull off with such charm and harmlessness; and I no longer feel offensive to either Indian or English cultures in pointing that out.
I approached this media call in completely the wrong mind-set. I focussed far too much on the idea that this interpretation is so wildly different and outrageous to what I considered to be the more traditional British way of performing good ol’ William’s works.
And, quite rightly, I was quickly corrected in the Q and A by Paul Battacharjee (who, brilliantly, played Benedick) when I asked how this ‘less traditional theme’ changed the way the actors approached their performance; ‘You used the word ‘tradition’ and ‘Shakespeare’ in the same sentence…and I have no idea what you’re talking about’
‘Obviously we aren’t white skinned British people, but we are British and Shakespeare is much a part of our tradition as it is a part of British tradition…and if there’s anything that we are most comfortable with in India is these great big epic family stories.’ And in that moment I felt, ironically, very naive in how old fashioned I was in my approach to this play.
Because as Paul rightly said, there was no ‘fitting or twisting or changing’ of the story, the culture that these actors injected in to the show came very naturally because it was, essentially, a no less traditional or more an outrageous interpretation than any other interpretation of Much Ado performance I’d seen. Not to say the vibrancy that the Bollywood theme brought wasn’t brilliantly innovative but, for me, it was the enthusiasm and dedication of the actors that made it such a fantastic show.
I could give you a million different reasons to go and see this show. But to put it in the eloquent words of the Director, Iqbal Khan, ‘Why should you come and see it?
…Because it’s a fucking good show.’