November 11th, Marol, Mumbai
A peerless writer, a classic script, a stellar cast, everything made in house and funds raised that went twice over the budget; this was the stuff of a Hollywood, Bollywood or Anyotherwood producer’s dreams as Hasanat High School brought in Ahmedabad based Artist in Residence to oversee production of ‘A Pound of Twist’.
Shakespeare’s immortal Merchant of Venice provided the base for this updated version of the court scene from the play. The primary characters were all played by senior girls from the school while scenes were chorused by synchronised groups pounding out rap-like commentaries on the shenanigans and goings-on that make this excerpt of the bard’s play so emblematic of greed, revenge and the triumph of comeuppance.
There was light and sound, music and rhyme, humour and drama throughout in a well tuned script that exchanged the bard’s language for something more digestible to a 21st century audience while keeping the essence of this tale for all times.
The acting was assured, the production values – sets, stage and audio-visuals – were all of top quality and not a foot was set wrong by any student in front of two full-house crowds in the Hasanat sports ground. Everything, in short, to be admired about a production we were told was entirely the work and display of the schools’ students under supervision from the AIR team.
Within 3 weeks the students had sought and found sponsorship, rehearsed and re-rehearsed their play, designed and made sets and costumes, set-up and run the audio and visual equipment and effects, choreographed routines and prepared the venue for their guests. Every aspect, whilst under the careful guidance of AIR’s staff, was the work and finished product of the students themselves. It was a concerted effort in which no student from the upper standards of the school was not participant and their hard and concerted effort shone through in the two showings of the play that were the final outcome.
For AIR this was their first such production outside of Ahmedabad and the team from the company ably demonstrated and shared their skills and knowledge from a background in film and theatre. Their and energetic staff were also suitably impressed with Hasanat and its methods. In a pre-recorded film of the background and work that went into the production, one of them went as far as to say that he loved how the teachers interacted with the students like friends and wishing that his own schooling had been as much fun.
Audience members included parents, invitees and guests who had purchased a ticket and, whist the post-play film could have been shorter, all had nothing but words of praise for the school, the students and AIR’s effort.
For all the contemporary twists on his words, Shakespeare too, will have had a smile.