The Wuzhen Theater Festival is honoring Shakespeare's 450th birthday with a special performance. The bard's hilarious tale of mistaken identities and crazy love triangles is made fresh in a new production with a distinctive Bollywood flair.
Amid the splendor of the Chinese ancient stage, in the quiet setting of a dreamy water town, Shakespeare's comic classic unfolds in Hindi.
From Illyria, where Shakespeare sets the story of the 12th Night, to Mumbai by the Indian Ocean, now to the canal town of Wuzhen in China, the bard’s repertoire has traveled far in time and space.
But the well-known story has not lost its charm to audiences for more than 400 years, especially when it meets new twist of forms and culture. Mumbai's Company Theatre brings its acclaimed vitality and inventiveness to the iconic Courtyard Theatre, with Indian traditional music and dance.
"In India, we do Shakespeare’s plays and get influenced by many sub-cultures. So Bollywood is not the only one, though it's one of the most prominent sub-cultures. So all that we have used in Twelfth Night," said director Atul Kumar.
Debuted in 1602, the play centers on the twins Viola and Sebastian, who are separated in a shipwreck. The play focuses on the Countess Olivia falling in love with Viola, who is disguised as a boy messenger of Orsino, who has fallen in love with Olivia.
Hailed as one of Shakespeare’s best comedies, the 400-year-old play is still worth a lot of laughs. The show is performed in Hindi, with subtitles in English and Chinese. The director is confident the magic of theater can break the boundaries of language.
"Because it got translated from Shakespearean English to Hindi, and back to English and then back into Chinese. We’ll see," he said.
During this year’s Wuzhen festival, there are 17 invited plays, 12 young artists’ plays, and 1,500 outdoor performances over ten days. It is impossible to see all of them, and visitors have a tough job choosing those staged at the same time. But the theater for Twelfth Night is fully packed.?
"The performers have improvised a lot on the stage. But the translated subtitles are not satisfying. But it is still very good, very funny," said an audience member.
"I think the performances are extraordinary. It’s a wonderful mix. We enjoy it very much," said another audience member.