Calcutta Performers springs a most unexpected surprise with their latest production, Hrotsvitha. I cannot imagine any Indian troupe
deciding to stage a biographical play about a tenth-century Saxon canoness — notwithstanding her dual importance as the first known
dramatist in medieval Europe, and the first woman dramatist in the world (by virtue of which several universities teach her texts today).
For Amit Maitra to have scripted this Bengali play deserves equal applause, given its apparently original content since he does not
mention any foreign source.

Of course, Maitra’s work is necessarily fictional, because we know hardly anything regarding Hrotsvitha, other than the little that she
revealed about herself. She hailed from a noble family but joined the abbey at Gandersheim, where she mastered Latin and composed poetry and prose as well. Inspired by the style of Terence, she applied it to preach Christian constancy in six plays that survive, which entertain while they teach. In fact, Maitra should have translated a few of her short scenes; maybe the director, Tamal Raychaudhuri, can interpolate some lively samples of her theatricality, say from Dulcitius or Paphnutius.

Raychaudhuri casts his best actors, Srabani Ghosh and Jayanta Bandyopadhyay, as Hrotsvitha and the Holy Roman emperor Otto II
respectively, and they sustain our interest, though Otto was actually a young man in Hrotsvitha’s lifetime (his father, Otto the
Great, was older than her). Tanusree Goswami and Projnaparamita Chatterjee act in character as her tutors Rikarda and Abbess Gerberga, with Joyeeta Chowdhury performing Otto’s wife, Theophano: Hrotsvitha underlines the discrimination faced by women at all levels.

The group’s previous production, Sākshi, more conventionally turned to familiar pastures, Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution. Bijoy Chatterjee condensed it into a Bengali setting, but smoothened out Christie’s terminal twists and turns, denying us the triple whammy. Directed by Sukumar Bandyopadhyay, once again Srabani Ghosh and Jayanta Bandyopadhyay prove their mettle as the devious lady and the lawyer, though her charade in court does not appear as plausible as it should. Still, Debjyoti Chakrabarti as the suave killer cannot match their dexterity, whereas Projnaparamita Chatterjee expertly portrays the maid.

(From The Telegraph, 20 May 2017)