An Evening with a Mr Tagore

Group: The Red Curtain

Director: Katy Lai Roy

Dramatist: Jayant Kripalani


Wait Until Dark

Group: The Red Curtain

Director: Sumit Lai Roy

Dramatist: Frederick Knott


Six Dead Queens and an Inflatable Henry

Group: Bangalore Little Theatre

Director: Shatarupa Bhattacharya


Fifty years ago, when The Amateurs and The Oskars ruled Calcutta’s English theatre, a band of school-leavers formed The Red Curtain, which staged critically acclaimed productions in the 1970s. Now the oldest extant English group, it celebrated its golden jubilee with a three-day festival.


Since theatre history privileges original drama, we applaud TRC raising the bar on An Evening with a Mr Tagore. Scripted and acted by Jayant Kripalani, it presents impressions of Rabindranath – “a” Tagore, as Kripalani observes rightly, because “there are so many of him”. Shifting from first to third person and back, he relates biographical incidents and reads from Tagore’s essays and letters to create a unified portrait that engages even though we know many of them. Crucially, he stresses aspects important today – humanism, education, nature, children – and uncommonly, foregrounds Tagore’s wit. He could include “He mor chitta” to reflect our present crisis. Katy Lai Roy directs with her tasteful design and period décor, but Rabindrasangit singer Rajeswary Ganguly Banerjee must pronounce “ph” correctly, not turn flowers into fools as in current malpractice.


By contrast, the two other plays seemed irrelevant. TRC’s revival of Wait Until Dark (which it did in 1972) proves that nostalgia should never overpower dramatic choice. Frederick Knott’s chiller, granted a longer lease of life by its film, simply plods in the lead-up, rising to its nail-biting climax by the time most viewers have left out of boredom. The tedium undermines TRC’s famed production values, which director Sumit Lai Roy cannot rescue. As the blind heroine, Rebecca Johns completely upstages her young peers, who make us question how the gang of experienced conmen got its credentials.


Bangalore Little Theatre, even older than TRC, brought Six Dead Queens and an Inflatable Henry, a British farce from 1999. But what can we possibly learn new about how cruelly Henry VIII treated his wives? Shatarupa Bhattacharya directs stylishly, bedecking clown gear and slapstick on the talented sextet, who give it their all, but the text, full of superficial and smutty puns, has no substance. If BLT wanted an all-women play, they could have selected classics by Ntozake Shange, Maria Fornes, Caryl Churchill or others.


(From The Times of India, 10 January 2020)