How to update a classic play

Written for IdeasTap

How to update a classic play

In the year Chekhov met Cobain, radical interpretations of classics have been all the rage. Honour Bayes looks at what it takes to successfully revamp a golden oldie…

Stay true to the original…

2012 has seen Anton Chekhov get modern makeovers, with Benedict Andrews’ modern-day Three Sisters (including a rendition of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’) and Anya Reiss’ The Seagull, set on the Isle of Man. While each text is decades away from 19th-century Russia, both playwrights remained faithful to Chekhov’s play. “I value the opportunity to meet the play and get to know its characters better,” says Benedict. He adds that the most extreme transformations come from a rigorous re-examining of the text: “The only advice I can give is to not settle for quick answers or second-hand readings – seek out the play’s DNA, its raw fibres, and try to expose them.” Anya looked for the pieces of the original that were eternal: “Once I found them, they became the supports… and it’s just a matter of bridging between these supports, using the original as a blueprint of how you get from these points.” Or as One Man, Two Guvnors writer Richard Bean puts it, “The plot’s [Carlo] Goldoni’s and all the dialogue is mine.”

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Review: Kanjoos – The Miser

Written for The Stage

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What a perfect time to revive Moliere’s The Miser, a satirical comedy of manners inviting us to laugh at the money-pinching rich. Indeed the austere Harjinder – the eponymous ‘Kanjoos’ in this playful adaptation – could be David Cameron’s poster boy, he’s so hypocritically frugal.

Harjinder’s Gandhi-like existence is driving his children wild, just as his selfish grip is stopping them from marrying the people they love. Luckily friends and strangers are on hand with a fairytale solution.

Hardeep Singh Kohli wittily transposes the action from 17th-century France to modern-day Nagpur. His script drips with pop culture references while keeping Moliere’s joy of the ridiculous intact.

Co-writer and director Jatinder Verma’s vibrant production rattles along at a cheerfully bombastic pace. Each member of this charming ensemble sends up both classic and contemporary stereotypes with joyous abandon.

Sohini Alam, Danyal Dhondy and Hassan Mohyeddin’s music gives weight to the clowning on stage with some seriously classy accompaniment, incorporating traditional Indian melodies one moment and the theme from The Godfather the next.

As the nights draw in and the revelries of summer are forgotten, this warm and funny show is just the tonic to counter the cold pinch of austerity.

Runs until 13th October