Kathakali version of Shakespeare’s King Lear returns to stage

King Lear and Cordelia

The first ever production was premiered in 1989, Kathakali-King Lear has been staged at prestigious venues across the world for over a decade.

Since its creation, Kathakali-King Lear has become a reference act in the field of inter-cultural performances, and has been the object of passionate polemics, as well as of numerous academic studies.

Presented by The Annette Leady/Keli Company, Shakespeare’s famous tragedy saw its last series of performances at the Globe Theater in London in July 1999.

Since its first performance, the company has created a number of productions featuring some Indian performers as well.

Thanks to this long and faithful collaboration, the revival of Kathakali-King Lear production will include a generation of artists who participated in their youth and have now reached the full maturity of their art.

It has allowed them the confidence of playing the lead roles in this Shakespearean adaptation. A few young artists have also been selected for secondary characters.

According to Leday, the challenge that faces any production of King Lear is to find a theatrical expression for the larger-than-life dimension and explosive power of the play. Kathakali’s rich means of expression and its intensity create precisely the dimension and power that King Lear requires. The themes of the play include kingship and succession, marriage and dowry, exile and renunciation, the relation of man-to-man, man -to-nature, and man-to-death, all of which are already central to the Kathakali universe.

As for the adaptation, the emphasis is on the dramatic elaboration of relatively simple intrigues. Unlike any other Shakespearean tragedy, King Lear is made up of two parallel intrigues, that of Lear and his three daughters and that of Gloucester and his two sons. By suppressing the Gloucester material, the Lear story stands out in its powerful simplicity.

This plot corresponds precisely to the theatrical criteria of Kathakali, both in its length and in the number of characters involved.

The performance, organised by Alliance Francaise, Chandigarh, will be held on December 4 at Law Auditorium, Panjab University, Chandigarh, from 6 pm onwards.

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