What did our critic think of THE CLAY CART at TAPAC?

By: Dec. 06, 2023

Reviewed by Katie and Richard Pidgeon

What came between Aristophanes and Shakespeare? The answer - Sūdraka. 

A 5th-century Sanskrit playwright who, like Shakespeare and the classical playwrights, wrote about the human condition. The Clay Cart (Mricchakatika) weaves a tale of love, loss, deception, and redemption. The tale is set in the ancient city of Ujjayina, India and focuses on a formerly wealthy Brahman, Chārudatta, who has generously given his funds away in acts of exaggerated charity. He has fallen in love with a courtesan, Vasantasenā, and the trials and tribulations of their romance, mostly caused by the King’s brother-in-law Sansthānaka, provide both drama and comedy.

Prayas Theatre brings their bold adaption of Sūdraka’s play alive. Rishabh Kapoor (Chārudatta), Ruchika Tandon (Vasantasenā), and Jehangir Homavazir (Sansthānaka) carry the story in a clear and well-defined manner. These three characters' roles are bold and enigmatic and allow for the subtleties of character interaction and mischief to unfold. This play does have adult sexual themes and simulated violence so the audience should go in with open eyes. 

The ensemble is well chosen for their roles and in particular certain minor characters steal the show when they take the stage. Socrates Fernandes, Subhamoy Ganguly, and Namrata Mankame-Shanbhag are particularly worthy of mention. 

The sepia colour palette for the costumes cleverly facilitates the action and scenery which moves from romance to violence, to comedy, to litigation and near capital punishment. The choreography of movement is a nod towards archetypal Bollywood while remaining fresh and in keeping with the brave adaption of Sūdraka’s timeless masterpiece. 

The structure of the play is a key element. The ten scenes are adroitly transitioned between through the use of lighting and movement. This helps the narrative to flow and the audience to keep pace with the plot development.  

This adaptation makes use of a device used by Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night’s Dream where the mechanicals discuss the practicalities of putting on the play-within-the-play. The use of this device injects modern commentary into the timeless classic. Does this device enhance Sūdaka’s play? That is debatable, but it does create talking points for the audience. Directors Amit Ohdedar and Sananda Chatterjee should be rightly proud of their bold interpretation of Shekinah Jacob’s adaptation. The numbers of the Indian community as audience members are a testament to this. It is a taste of tradition with a flavour of modernity.

Get along to TAPAC to see The Clay Cart to fill in the gap in your theatrical knowledge and have a great culturally rich night out.

The Clay Cart

29 November - 8 December


Tickets here