For Chetana to pick Brecht’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus (Academy of Fine Arts, January 5) is at once both right and wrong. If translator-director Suman Mukherjee intends to convey Shakespeare, Brecht’s version is inadequate. But if he wants to convey Brecht, it becomes more problematic because we don’t know what Brecht really intended—he died before he could produce the play. Brecht’s Coriolan remains an unfinished text.

The only justifiable reasons for staging this edition are its compactness compared to a typical Shakespearean script, and its easier dialogue, more amenable for prose translation into Bengali. These must be Mukherjee’s prime factors, but are they good enough? The production also rarely challenges what Brecht derided as the “bourgeois theatre”, not allowing any of the several political conflicts to attain maximum impact: the patriotic hero vs. what Brecht calls the “people’s enemy” (the two aspects of Coriolanus), the civil strife (patricians vs. plebeians), the external war (Romans vs. Volscians).

The main culprit for this is the raw acting, often uninspired, many of the collective scenes using basic workshop exercises, and even some names being mispronounced. The unlikely, diminutive Supriya Dutta in the eponymous role holds the show together with the only Brechtian performance: one is reminded of Brecht’s own comments on this part, which does not require physical force to inspire fear, therefore no need for a “sixteen-stone Coriolanus”; and which reveals no “proper development” since “he stays the same”. Of the others, the women are embarrassingly weak. Kaustuv Sen’s set design recalls the panels and colours deployed by the Leicester Haymarket Julius Caesar, plus the height motif in Caspar Neher’s original sketches.

(From The Telegraph, 23 January 1993)