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Review: Romeo & Juliet – No Strings Attached: The Play by Tahatto

Last evening I went to watch the play ‘Romeo & Juliet -No Strings Attached’ at Rangashankara and thought I’d share my thoughts on it. Now I’m no expert on plays and haven’t seen a lot of them in my life either so please, take this review with a pinch of salt or if you so like, a bucket of it.

On Monday morning I was reading Bangalore Mirror and killing time when I saw a familiar face in a play announcement. Since the paper didn’t list names of characters or give much detail on the play, I went like most of us do these days to google.

As it turned out not only was a good friend was one of the characters but the play also sounded interesting. Here’s what the Rangashankara site had to say about the play –

“Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is beyond just a love story. It’s a story of choices and their consequences. This play ‘Romeo and Juliet – no strings attached’, takes off from there. Set in a puppet theatre, 4 actors playing puppets, break off their strings, in an empty theatre after their daily show and perform their own version of the Bard’s play. The version they play out is irreverent, toungue-in-cheek, replete with pop-culture references, Bollywood and inherent Indian sensibilities.
Every scene from the original play gets peppered with layers of modern-day issues, idiosyncrasies and relevant parallels although most of Shakespearean dialogue is largely kept intact. Most importantly, unbeknownst to the puppets, the theme of choices, strings, restrictions and decisions seems to weave its own story in their lives.

‘Romeo and Juliet – no strings attached’ is also the Winner of the Hindu Metroplus Playwright of the Year Award – 2012, and featured in the Hindu Metro Plus theatre Fest 2013 in Chennai and Coimbatore.”

Puppets doing an interpretation of Romeo & Juliet sounded interesting and I figured why not, so off I went to book tickets.

Now for some details on the play. ‘Romeo & Juliet – No Strings Attached’ is a 90 minute play directed by Prashanth Nair and performed by the Tahatto troupe from Bangalore. It’s listed as a English-Hindi play but I think I did hear some Kannada too. :)

The play started off with four puppets – Champak, Panauti, Nautanki and Stringeri coming to life and doing a play of their choice – Romeo & Juliet, after some arguing of course. They divide the characters among three of them while the fourth sets it all to music and song. Champak plays Romeo while Panauti and Nautanki play a host of other supporting characters and Stringeri like I said early makes music and reminds characters to get back to the story.

Though the play largely sticks to the age-old story of love, the puppets step out of it a lot and make their own story. And that was the fun part for me. The puppets questioned the story, made references to events and news, impersonated famous people and generally had fun outside of Romeo & Juliet. It was a laugh riot. I hadn’t laughed so much in a while.

That said, I did come across a few people who found it lacking. Now the play is a slap-stick in-your-face comedy so if you’re looking for something slow, dramatic and witty, this isn’t for you. But if you’re looking for fast-paced, witty, hilarious and fun, ‘Romeo & Juliet – No Strings Attached’ is a play to watch.

The puppets had great comic timing and I was in splits most off the time, but a little bit of the latter half when Juliet dies is a bit draggy and preachy, though with Juliet gone the puppets pick up pace again.

Of the four my favourite puppets were Panauti and Nautanki. Panauti speaks his mind, has a clear heart and says what he means. His simpleness, naivete and sheer cheek make you fall in love with him. Then there’s Nautanki with his gruff exterior that harbours a soft heart. He’s like that pushy bully who buckles and gets all sheepish when the right buttons are pressed. Panauti and Nautanki made for some fun moments.

Champak plays Romeo well but somehow he didn’t make such an impact on me and neither did Juliet, except for when she launched into a ‘women being ignored’ speech. That leaves us with Stringeri who hasn’t a part to play in Romeo and Juliet but his music and cues work like glue to keep it all together.

Just in case you wanted to know the cast –
Stringeri: Christopher Avinash
Nautanki: Shashank Purushotham
Panauti: Anshul Pathak
Champak: Tijul Ray
Juliet: Kalyani Nair

Summing it up, I enjoyed the play. If ‘Romeo & Juliet – No Strings Attached‘ by Tahatto is being performed in your city, don’t miss it. The play promises a fun-filled evening and delivers.

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