– Christopher Ricks, Tim Supple, Elif Batuman, Chandrahas Choudhury and Anjum Hassan moderated by Supriya Nair
Supriya Nair introduced the brilliant an varied panel, which included a famous theatre director, a professor, a journalist, a critic and a novelist. The discussion explored the idea of Shakespeare’s global appeal. Christopher Ricks said that ‘Global is a small word, Shakespeare is universal,’ going on to stay that Shakespeare was not only the greatest poet but also the greatest prose writer. He explained that some of his greatest speeches were in prose, whether that be Shylock in The Merchant of Venice or Hamlet. Elif Batuman discussed her article, published in The New York Times, which focussed on a woman in a remote village of Turkey who saw theatre for the first time and decided then to devote her life to this art, going on to stage a version of Hamlet in which all the roles were played by woman, and bringing Shakespeare alive in such a remote area of the world. Tim Supple, who has performed Midsummer Night’s Dream in various Indian languages, spoke about his experience of working with Indian actors in relation to Shakespeare. Supple said that when he first came to India, he had hoped to work in Indian cities to produce English performances, but had ended up working in rural areas with folk artists. He described a performance in Pondicherry, where the audience consisted of the workers who were helping with the production, intellectuals from different parts of the world and a middle class Indian audience, observing that the play had affected everyone, because there is ‘something transparent in Shakespeare that connects with everyone.’ Anjum Hassan said her first novel had been inspired by her love of Shakespeare, featuring an English teacher born within Indian tradition, who had to teach Shakespeare to his students, exploring the importance of Shakespeare in an Indian context. Hassan read a passage from her second novel, which focuses on a girl fascinated by her father’s admiration for Hamlet. Chandrahas Choudhary concluded that most people in India are not able to watch Shakespeare in performance, thus reducing Shakespeare to a textual experience.