Preparing for India
February 6, 2012
I am off to India this week to research for Much Ado About Nothing. I have never been and am excited and nervous to be designing the show for the Courtyard Theatre in July. The plan, led by Iqbal Khan as director, is to create a production that comes out of India now, perhaps with a Punjabi feel, not a romanticised India of the past.
The cast will all be British south east Asian or from India. There is a lot of talk of a Bollywood Benedict to match Meera Syal's Beatrice, but we will have to wait and see. We have meetings set up in Delhi with theatre practitioners and we hope to follow up contacts and find a costume designer we could collaborate with.
At the moment I question if i have the authentic knowledge to create the world of this production, but have to remind myself that that is always true at the beginning of the process. We went to the Ukraine for The Grain Store at the RSC and I've recently been doing some research trips to Romford and Sittingbourne for a couple of shows at the Royal Court and they revealed how easy it is to fall into preconceptions about a place and its people even closer to home! I have many books on India but it feels as alien as looking at photos from the past, where one can only guess at what it is really going on behind the images. I'm hoping that the trip, although short, will give me a chance of seeing; colours, shapes, textures, the habits of people. It may be that the set ends up completely abstract (perhaps rusty metal!), but at least it will have come from a more authentic seed.
There is always the danger of trying to shoehorn the world of Shakespeare's sixteenth century into an Indian twenty-first century, and that is where one must be led by the text, to not force images on the play, but let the words bring the world to life. That being said the best Much Ado I saw was Tamsin Grieg in a very naturalistic Cuban inspired production in the Swan at the RSC, so maybe it is the kind of play that supports a very specific setting. We'll have to wait and see.
Meanwhile, any hot tips for Delhi?
by Tom Piper
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