THE HINDU Sept 6/16

Timeri Murari talks about his new play and how Shakespeare’s works are still relevant today

Timeri Murari is looking forward to a trip to London next week. His new play, Enter Queen Lear, directed by Simone Vause, will open at Drayton Arms Theatre for an initial three-week run. The romantic comedy revolves around an ageing, wealthy movie star who accepts the role of Lear again, and what happens through the rehearsals. Metroplus catches up with the city-based writer to find out more.

How did Enter Queen Lear fall in place?

A friend of mine had an acting group in London that got together every week to do both old and new plays. Last October, I’d sent this play, which I had done a couple of years ago, and the actors did a reading that went off very well. My friend Nicholas, who is also my producer, wanted to give it a shot and so did the actors. I remember one elderly lady telling me how much she enjoyed the reading. I said, ‘Shakespeare must be turning in his grave.’ She sweetly said, ‘I bet he’s kicking himself for not having thought about it first.’ I was quite flattered with that remark, and that’s how it all started.

London has a terrific theatre scene, and so, casting must have been easy…

It does; it’s more vibrant than New York or any other city. The first person we zeroed in on was the lead character (Jenny Runacre) — a fine actor. The hardest part to cast was the role of a make-up artist, an Indian woman. A lot of actors would show up at the sessions and then opt out. So, finally, we found an actor who looks Indian — we were running out of time, and cast Catherine Winer to do the role of the Indian woman. I’m told she read very well and we hope she does well.
How relevant is Shakespeare today?
Well, he’s still very relevant because his works deal with human character… and that hasn’t changed at all for ten thousand years. It’s still about power, greed and love. Even now, you can do Romeo and Juliet; there are enough instances of that in India. You can stage that in a village tomorrow, and they will recognise what you’re talking about. Or Hamlet; you can see a reflection of today’s society in that as well.

Which is perhaps why even Indian filmmakers are taking it up now?

I read often about how Shakespeare’s plays are being turned into films. It’s certainly having more relevance in India. Nobody in England or America is doing movies that are set in modern times but use Shakespeare. Surprisingly, it is Indian directors who are taking them up.

You released a young-adult novel recently. How different is the process of writing that and something like Enter Queen Lear?

It works very differently. In a novel, you can have the person thinking internally for pages and pages. But you can’t do that in a play. The latter is about character and the story; you have to bring it out through gestures and dialogues. Those are the two elements for a play to work. It’s a much different craft to writing a novel, but I quite enjoy the challenges that come with it.

What else are you working on currently?

The third part of my young-adult novel AXXISS trilogy is published in January.