Baba Shakespeare

by Emmeline Winterbotham

Suggested by the Merchant Ivory film
Shakespeare Wallah of 1965

Fri 13th July, 2012

The Tower Theatre performing at the RSC Courtyard Theatre, Stratford upon Avon

The cast, crew and RSC support team on the stage of the Courtyard Theatre

Review by Robin Simpson on Cultural Dessert

The first National Showcase performance was by the Tower Theatre Company from London. They performed Baba Shakespeare - a new play written and directed by Emmeline Winterbotham, suggested by the Merchant Ivory film Shakespeare Wallah, which itself was based on the real life experiences of Felicity Kendal's father's company "Shakespeareana". Set in 1961, Baba Shakespeare tells the tale of a troupe of British actors touring an India that no longer values their Shakespearean productions as it once did. The Tower Theatre Company's production was ambitious and impressive, encompassing a variety of set-piece scenes that included puppetry, Bollywood dancing and excerpts from a range of Shakespeare plays.

The cast of 26 included a high proportion of young Asian actors and dancers and the standard of performance was uniformly high. Ian Recordon and Simona Hughes as Tony and Clare Buckingham, Lizzy Barber as their daughter, Lizzie, and Cael King as Sanju Rai, with whom she falls in love, were all excellent - as was Llila Vis as the Bollywood film star Manjula (played in the original film by Madhur Jaffrey). The ensemble playing was very slick, with some great comedy, particularly that involving Ankur Chopra as Gupta.

The Tower Theatre Company felt at home in the large Courtyard Theatre and the measure of their success was that there were times when I genuinely forgot I wasn't watching the RSC and had to remind myself that this was an amateur theatre production. Baba Shakespeare was a great way to start the RSC Open Stages National Showcase : it is a play about theatre, and about Shakespeare, and there are references within the text to maybe playing upon the stage at Stratford one day. Looking at Shakespeare in an Indian context also emphasises his global reach : this was a fitting first contribution from the UK's amateur theatre sector to the 2012 World Shakespeare Festival.

Photography by Michael Wharley


Sanju Rai : Cael King
Lizzie Buckingham : Lizzy Barber
Anthony Buckingham : Ian Recordon
Manjula : Llila Vis
Carla Buckingham : Simona Hughes
Monkey Wallah, Film Choreographer 1961 : Anaish Parmar
Didiji (Manjula's companion) : Somita Basak
Gupta : Ankur Chopra
Sharma : Jatinder Chera
Aslam : Miren Patel
Bobby Sylvester : Bob Hough
The Maharaja of Betawar : Charan Singh
Deputy Headmaster : Anil Goutam
Mrs Bowen : Janet South
Film Director 1961 and other roles : Herschel Pant
Mrs Puri and other roles : Neha Jain
South Indian Padre and other roles : Menesh Patel

Boy Monkey: Catherine Thomas
Girl Monkey : Grace Smart

Lizzie alter-ego, Jilted Lady and Dance Captain : Aurélie Bocquillon
Sanju alter-ego and Lover : Anaish Parmar
Love Goddess and Bollywood Dance Chorus : Araddya Mehtta
Dance Chorus - Bollywood & Love Under the Stars : Deepa Patel, Jessica Andrade, Rukmini Roychowdhury
Dance Chorus - Love Under the Stars : Janet South, Jatinder Chera, Jo Hensman, Karen Walker

Production Team
Writer and Director : Emmeline Winterbotham
Choreographer : Shobna Gulati
Composer : Chris Davies
Design : Catherine Morgan
Shakespeare Director : Jake Murray
Lighting Design : Nick Insley
Sound Design : Colin Guthrie
Costume Design : Abigale Lewis
Assistant Set Designer : Daniel Vincent

Producer : Lisa Rost-Welling
Stage Manager : Dinah Irvine
Assistant Stage Manager : Julie Arrowsmith
Lighting Operator : Rosey Tyler
Rehearsal Coordinator and Sound Operator : Michelle Roebuck
Costume Design Co-ordinator : Meryl Griffiths
Wardrobe : Lynda Twidale
with assistance from Pauline Bennett
Head-dresses : Anna Dimdore
Set Construction : Michael Bettell, Keith Syrett, Roger Beaumont, Jude Chalk, Phillip Ley and members of the cast and crew
Puppet Co-ordinator : Barbara Mathews
Dance Co-ordinator : Janet South
Workshop Co-ordinator : Sheila Burbidge
Publicity Co-Ordinator : Sue Brodie
Aks co-ordinator : Neha Jain