The play starts with the memorable line of Shakespeare, “All the world is a stage and all the men and women mere actors” by a forgetful Soso, who forgets lines and desperately looks for prompters. What ensues is a lot of hilarity. Overriding his doubts that the audience are exiting his play, he faces an alert audience who are confident the act won’t make them snore. The cast clowns its way into the audiences’ hearts. Popo a baton wielding director who freely whacks the backside of the clowns chooses to enact a new production, a play within a play, complicating matters by switching the genders. For his choice is – As you like it, a comedy which is just two layers and a death away from being a tragedy. Once drawn into Kapoor’s stage rendition you are captivated by the contribution of each actor and the nuances of the spoken word. As the performers run through their lines, their relationships unfold, revealing often love hate angles.
Mimi and Coco are the ones who are bitten by the ‘love at first sight’, bug. Coco (Aadar Malik) and Mimi (Faezeh Jalali) – phew what energy, are excitable young lovers whose young life is so wonderful, you butter your knife till it melts, making each other happy and cheerful, unable to keep their hands off each other.
Fifi and Fido are the ones tackling one sided feelings. Fido is slavishly crazy (I particularly loved his acting) about Fifi, who treats him like a valet and flirts with other men. She is busy painting while he tries to fix her the best decaffeinated coffee. Fido spins the hula hoop effortlessly.
Soso is a classic example of a romance pessimist who plays the character of Melancholy Jacques. He shares an inevitable bond with his hand puppet Toto.
Newest entrant is Gigi, a floppy hat wearing neck ruff totting clown from France, who stokes rivalries among her chaotic egotistical peers – hey you french fries, you butter toast – Mimi confronts her when she showers favours on Popo the director.
The impeccable star cast never fails to deliver. Limelight may fall on two but none of the cast fails to impress. There is never a dull moment on the stage and you are constantly smiling at the little acts being pulled off stage. The chemistry between the actors is palpable; they verbally joist with each other, rarely missing a beat.
The elaborate gender reversal in the pastoral comedy set in the forest of Arden is of considerable interest to modern critics. The cast wearing festive clothing and throwing their arms up confidently to express that it can easily do the others role is absolutely amazing. The chirping of the birds and peaceful setting makes Gigi happy. She sees good in everything.
To conclude, endless confusion and fun happens when genders are switched: “the guitar you play is too small” complains Mimi. Size doesn’t matter is his cheeky reply. The audience by now is in splits and clapping loudly. Barring Fido all the others are typical men in a warm fuzzy manner. Women come out more level headed. The women wear sedate, striped knickerbockers and men wear polka dots. Amongst the trees under a star lit sky with fireflies for company each clown discovers his or her own identity. The clowns look back and look at life afresh. Just like in a circus Mimi splits, somersaults, and tap dances like a professional clown. All actors tumble with Popo whacking a bat like in a circus.
The grand finale of the week-long Meta Awards was a feast and it came to an end to a thundering applause from an exhilarated and enriched crowd here in Delhi!
By Prabha Jain