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This was performed at the JUSAS Seminar Shakespeare and/in America in October 2013. The cast, largely playing themselves in a meta-theatrical performance, in order of appearance were Saptak Choudhury, Shrutakirti Dutta, Arkaprabha Chakraborty, Sourya Majumder and Somak Mukherjee. The musical accompaniments were provided by Dibyokamal Mitra and Siddhesh Gooptu. The play itself was written and adapted by Trisha Ray. All rights belong to Trisha Ray.

Enter Saptak with script. Enter Shrutakirti, Arkaprabha, Sourya, who sit down centre-stage. Saptak stands behind them.

Arkaprabha takes out cards and starts dealing to Shrutakirti and Sourya. Saptak paces about, memorizing.

Shrutakirti, Arkaprabha and Sourya start playing cards.

Enter Somak.

Somak: I have an idea for a play.

Arkaprabha: Good.

Shrutakirti: Is it Shakespeare?

Somak: It is Shakespeare. Let me explain it to you. My friends, you know me. You know I have never been involved with politics. But recent events have forced me to become political. The unwarranted assumption of the American president to think that the US has a moral prerogative to discipline the rest of the world has made my blood boil. My heart is hurting, and to alleviate this hurting-

Sourya: What play are we doing?

Somak: The Tempest. But as I was saying, my heart is hurting. For the poor innocents, who suffer unceasingly because of the capitalist agenda of the so-called First World-

Saptak: So we are doing an English play?

Somak: Yes, and why? Because we are still slaves to the culture of the Anglo-Saxon. We are Anglophiles, but let us come out of it! Let us go forth and-

Shrutakirti: The Tempest has a huge cast, and there are only five of us kintu.

Somak:

Arkaprabha: Are you surprised?

Somak: I am disappointed, but not surprised, no. Far too few people have the discipline to hone their craft. I may give my days and nights to it, but it is hardly expected that others will follow my example and learn from-

Saptak: Many of them are busy, or at home studying, jano toh. I don’t think they are being lazy.

Somak: Of course they are being lazy! Look at Roro, lying in bed all day, doing nothing.

Arkaprabha: Arre! He had a serious accident. He was hit by a train for God’s sake!

Somak: It is all psychology. Someone who tries to get into a confrontation with a moving train today must confront himself tomorrow! (muffled outcry) Let him be. Only five, you say. All right. We will double characters. But as I was saying. Recent international events have shown that the Americans think they can go anywhere and boss anybody. In order to save people, they will bomb people. Eta hote pare na! Let us protest against it, using theatre and Facebook. I have already uploaded a passionate status update on the situation. But let me tell you about the script.

Sourya: Yes, please tell us about the script.

Somak: The Tempest is essentially a story of colonization. We will show the true side of Prospero. That man. That horrible, self-entitled scourge of the earth, that defiler of peace in nations, that strident trumpeter of imperialism, that oppressor of the weak and downtrodden, that self-satisfied symptom of the patriarchal mode of domination, that religiously suspect fat twerk in the unstable and theologically sinister swamp bubble he called an intellect, that bumptious whiff of gas, that- that- Man!

Shru: Right. But what does it have to do with Syria?

Somak: It has to do with everything! I will show it as a repetitive pattern. Let us do a reading now of the script.

Saptak: Who is playing what?

Somak: I will show you.

Exit.

Announcer: Presenting The Plight of Prospero…

Each person enters when announced, to music.

As Prospero: Somak Mukherjee

As Miranda: Shrutakirti Dutta

As Ariel: Arkaprabha Chakraborty

As Caliban: Sourya Majumder

As Ferdinand: Saptak Choudhury

As Antonio: Arkaprabha Chakraborty

As Sebastian: Sourya Majumder

As Antonio: Somak Mukherjee

As Trinculo: Somak Mukherjee

As Gonzalo: Saptak Choudhury

As Stephano: Somak Mukherjee

As Boatswain: Somak Mukherjee

As Master: Somak Mukherjee

And…

As Sycorax: Somak Mukherjee

Somak: Are we ready?
Good afternoon. My name is Somak Mukherjee. These are my actors. Today we present Excerpts from the Tempest. While doing this play, the autobiographical aspect occurred to me many times. I too, have experienced exile. Like Prospero, I was cast out from the circle of my peers and friends due to excessive commitment to my arts. Like Prospero, I found safe harbour in a small, deserted place where the local people took me to their hearts and let me bring them out of their ignorance. I, too, know what it is to craft events to bring people together, out of my high attainment with my studies. But I would like to show you, also, what happens behind the scenes. What I am trying to say, I suppose, is that this play is very personal to me. It is a work of love. So enjoy yourselves. No cellphones, please.

Shrutakirti! I want you to read this speech.

Enter Shrutakirti

Shrutakirti: All right.

If by your art, my dearest father, you have
Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them.
The sky, it seems, would pour down stinking pitch,
But that the sea, mounting to the welkin’s cheek,
Dashes the fire out. O, I have suffered-

Somak: No, no! You must be more womanly. Remember, she is a gentle, innocent, helpless maiden, actuated by feelings of pity.

Shrutakirti: Ok. If by your art, my dearest father, you have
Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them-

Somak: Tsk. Uff. Tsk. Hochchey na. Feelings ta ashchey na. [It isn’t happening. You are not feeling it]

Shrutakirti: Hm.
The sky, it seems, would pour down stinking pitch,
But that the sea, mounting to the welkin’s cheek-

Somak: Wait, wait. Watch me, stand there, and watch the master.

Comically overdoes all actions

If by your art, my dearest father, you have
Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them.
The sky, it seems, would pour down stinking pitch,
But that the sea, mounting to the welkin’s cheek,
Dashes the fire out. O, I have suffered
With those that I saw suffer: a brave vessel,
Who had, no doubt, some noble creature in her,
Dash’d all to pieces. O, the cry did knock
Against my very heart. Poor souls, they perish’d.
Had I been any god of power, I would
Have sunk the sea within the earth or ere
It should the good ship so have swallow’d and
The fraughting souls within her.

Shrutakirti: Right. But how is this relevant to Syria?

Somak: You are representing the conscience of the feminist soul. You are supposed to be moved with pity and womanly compassion!

Shrutakirti: I don’t think feminists behave like that, Somak da.

Somak: It’s not your job to think! That’s my job. Your job is to play the role of this beautiful girl who is moved with pity, womanly pity, not talk so much! Now shut your mouth and do the part!

Exit Somak.

Enter Saptak, Arkaprabha and Sourya.

Shrutakirti:

Sourya: Abar shuru korechhe? [He’s started again?]

Shrutakirti: It doesn’t matter re.

Arkaprabha: Amader keo bollo. Shob kota line ei bhabei hobe. [He’s told us the same thing. Every line will have to be just like this]

Comically overdoes all actions

“Thou best know’st
What torment I did find thee in; thy groans
Did make wolves howl and penetrate the breasts
Of ever angry bears: it was a torment
To lay upon the damn’d, which Sycorax
Could not again undo: it was mine art,
When I arrived and heard thee, that made gape
The pine and let thee out.”

Sourya: Oh it was his art, was it?

Arkaprabha: Yes, his noble art.

Sourya: If I have to listen to another flowing period today I think I really will kill myself.

Saptak: I don’t mind the part, but he is so tyrannical! And abusive, frankly.

Sourya: He’s coming back!

Enter Somak, busily.

Somak: Right. I want to try the first Caliban scene. Positions!

Exit Arkaprabha, Shrutakirti and Saptak, hurriedly.

Prospero (Somak): Thou poisonous slave, got by the devil himself
Upon thy wicked dam, come forth!

Caliban (Sourya): As wicked dew as e’er my mother brush’d
With raven’s feather from unwholesome fen
Drop on you both! a south-west blow on ye
And blister you all o’er!

Prospero (Somak): For this, be sure, to-night thou shalt have cramps,
Side-stitches that shall pen thy breath up; urchins
Shall, for that vast of night that they may work,
All exercise on thee; thou shalt be pinch’d
As thick as honeycomb, each pinch more stinging
Than bees that made ’em.

Caliban (Sourya): I must eat my dinner.
This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother,
Which thou takest from me.

Seductively

When thou camest first,
Thou strokedst me and madest much of me, wouldst give me-

Somak: It is becoming pornographic. Look, you have to be angry. Prospero took the island from you, didn’t he? And killed your mother? How would you react to that situation? Like the colonized party! Be more like a native!

Sourya: I must eat my dinner.
This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother-

Somak: What kind of native is that?

Sourya: Bangali!

Somak: This is about America, Bangalis should not come into it! Do it like a Native American.

Sourya: Ok.

Somak: From the top…

Prospero (Somak): Thou poisonous slave, got by the devil himself
Upon thy wicked dam, come forth!

Caliban (Sourya): How.

Somak: What?

Sourya: How.

Somak: What how? And what’s that?

Sourya: A feather.

Somak: This is not working. All right. Do it like a Caribbean person.

Sourya: Ok. As wicked dew as e’er my mommy brush’d
With raven’s feather from unwholesome fen
Drop on you both! a south-west blow on ye
And blister you all o’er mun!

Somak:

(from wings) Arkaprabha: Shall I try?

Somak: Ok.

Enter Arkaprabha.

Arkaprabha: As wicked dew as e’er my mommy brush’d
With raven’s feather from unwholesome fen
Drop on you both! a south-west blow on ye
And blister you all o’er mun!

Threatens Somak with imaginary gun

Somak: Let us try something else. Yes. All right, Ferdinand and Miranda meet for the first time.

General groaning and grumbling from wings.

Arkaprabha: Can we please do it tomorrow?

Somak: All right. Fine. Leave.

Exit Arkaprabha. Grumbling ends.

I don’t think it’s so difficult to do, is it? It’s a beautiful comedy, set in a fantasy setting with lots of stage effects.

Enter Shrutakirti, Arkaprabha, Sourya and Saptak, silently.

But the story is simple.

Pantomime of actions as Somak describes them.

First we see a shipwreck. People running around, the ship begins to sink, nobody keeps their head. Then Miranda asks Prospero to stop the storm. Prospero tells her his life story, of being usurped and thrown out of Milan in a small boat. We see Ariel, who does everything he’s supposed to, and Caliban, who swears like a sailor on shore leave in a dry state, and Ferdinand, who needs encouragement to fall in love with Miranda, and Alonso, Sebastian, Antonio, Gonzalo and Adrian who are shipwrecked and mired in controversy already. Gonzalo is a good man and a socialist, the rest of them are skunks, Stefano and Trinculo are encouraged by Caliban to overthrow Prospero, Miranda and Ferdinand discuss Ferdinand’s previous love life and lack of real work experience, some people get drunk, there’s a feast, Prospero exposes and denounces everybody, Ferdinand and Miranda fall in love, everybody repents, and the ship sails back to Europe.

Exit Saptak, Souyra, Shrutakirti and Arkaprabha.

Simple, no problem. Why must it be so complicated?

Why was the story like this? Should we go and see behind the scenes whether anything else happened?

Exit Somak.

Enter Caliban (Sourya) and Ariel (Arkaprabha) from opposite wings. They bump into each other.

Caliban (Sourya): At it again, is he?

Ariel (Arkaprabha): Oh yes. “Thou best know’st
What torment I did find thee in; thy groans
Did make wolves howl and penetrate the breasts
Of ever angry bears: it was a torment
To lay upon the damn’d, which Sycorax
Could not again undo: it was mine art,
When I arrived and heard thee, that made gape
The pine and let thee out.”

Caliban (Sourya): Oh it was his art, was it?

Ariel (Arkaprabha): Yes, his noble art.

Caliban (Sourya): If I have to listen to another flowing period today I think I really will kill myself.

Ariel (Arkaprabha): You? I’ve had to jump from land to sea to sky today to get his damn special effects ready in time, while he sits there looking wise and wizardly. Not to mention a muster roll of the whole ship.

Caliban (Sourya): What does he want from it?

Ariel (Arkaprabha): The people in it. They threw him out before he came here.

Caliban (Sourya): Really? How long did it take them, do you know?

Ariel (Arkaprabha): We could find out, but look at it this way. If they give him everything he wants he could very well decide to go back with them. The important thing is to encourage him to want to leave. I’ve already got them here, I suggest you give him a nice long slanging-match, try and begin to make it not worth his while to stay.

Caliban (Sourya): Are you high? I’ve been doing that exact thing for more than a decade while you run around fetching and carrying for him, you shameless bootlicker!

Ariel (Arkaprabha): Look, he let me out of my tree, I thought I owed him something, and ever since then it’s become a bad habit with him that I couldn’t stop if I wanted to.

Caliban (Sourya): You don’t try hard enough!

Ariel (Arkaprabha): He’d lock me back up if I did.

Caliban (Sourya): Mph.

Pats Ariel’s back

I’ll curse him up and down if you like,

Ariel (Arkaprabha): Thank you.

Exit.

Enter Somak.

Somak: Does that make more sense? Do the two natives join forces and through negotiation and non-violent methods rid the island of Prospero? What does Miranda think..?

Shrutakirti!

(from wings) Shrutakirti: Oh!

Enter Miranda (Shrutakirti)

Miranda (Shrutakirti): If by your art, my dearest father, you have
Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them.
The sky, it seems, would pour down stinking pitch,
But that the sea, mounting to the welkin’s cheek,
Dashes the fire out. O, I have suffered
With those that I saw suffer: a brave vessel,
Who had, no doubt, some noble creature in her,
Dash’d all to pieces. O, the cry did knock
Against my very heart. Poor souls, they perish’d.
Had I been any god of power, I would
Have sunk the sea within the earth or ere
It should the good ship so have swallow’d and
The fraughting souls within her.

Prospero (Somak): Be collected:
No more amazement: tell your piteous heart
There’s no harm done.

Miranda (Shrutakirti): What do you mean, no harm done? Is this a joke to you? Do you have nothing better to do than sit around all day messing up other people’s sea journeys? Isn’t it bad enough that you refuse to ever help out around the island with some of the heavy lifting and water carrying, without making a horrible storm and cluttering the beach with wreckage?

Prospero (Somak): But I am doing it for you!

Miranda (Shrutakirti): What do you mean you’re doing it for me?!

Prospero (Somak): I’ve never told you this before. I thought you were too young, and must be sheltered. But I see now that the time has come. My daughter, I must tell you about your birth. You do not know who –

Miranda (Shrutakirti): You used to be the Duke of Milan, and I’m your heir, but they exiled you and put us on a boat with your library and a large cloak.

Prospero (Somak): …

Miranda (Shrutakirti): Your books are stamped with your seal, father, and you annotated your copy of Neapolitan Nobility with developments in the margin. I may not be good enough to be taught magic, but I can read.

Prospero (Somak): It is not magic but the study of occultism and the occasional raising of spirits, fortified by the divine arts and theology and not fit subject matter for a girl, I’ve told you this a hundred times. Anyway. If you know about your uncle’s treachery, you may well understand why I have raised this storm. Antonio is upon that ship. With him are Alonso, King of Naples, Sebastian his brother, and Ferdinand his son and heir. Alonso, mark you, conspired with Antonio to oust me most villaniously-

Miranda (Shrutakirti): They ousted you because you spent all your time shut up in your rooms with books instead of governing the city, father. They were doing your work for years before they’d had enough, and by that time all your friends had left you, it wasn’t hard to get rid of you.

Prospero (Somak): Lies! Vicious lies! Who’s been saying these things to you?

Miranda (Shrutakirti): Never you mind. Are you trying to kill them now and steal their ship?

Prospero (Somak): My plan is not so crude. I will wreck their ships here and confront them. Then I will force them to make amends to us.

Miranda (Shrutakirti): To us? To you, you mean. What’ve I got to do with it?

Prospero (Somak): I will arrange things so that we return to Milan in all honour, myself as Duke and you as my princess. Now go to sleep. I have many plans. And you must be tired.

Miranda (Shrutakirti): I don’t want to sleep, I want you to stop this storm.

Prospero (Somak): There. It is done.

Miranda (Shrutakirti): Thank you.

Exit Miranda (Shrutakirti)

Somak: An interesting phenomenon. I wonder whether Ferdinand and Miranda really wanted to get married at all.

Exit Somak.

Enter Saptak and Shrutakirti.

Ferdinand (Saptak): There be some sports are painful, and their labour
Delight in them sets off: some kinds of baseness
Are nobly undergone and most poor matters
Point to rich ends. This my mean task
Would be as heavy to me as odious, but
The mistress which I serve quickens what’s dead
And makes my labours pleasures: O, she is
Ten times more gentle than her father’s crabbed,
And he’s composed of harshness. I must remove
Some thousands of these logs and pile them up,
Upon a sore injunction: my sweet mistress
Weeps when she sees me work, and says, such baseness
Had never like executor. I forget:
But these sweet thoughts do even refresh my labours,
Most busy lest, when I do it.

Miranda (Shrutakirti): Alas, now, pray you,
Work not so hard: I would the lightning had
Burnt up those logs that you are enjoin’d to pile!
Pray, set it down and rest you: when this burns,
‘Twill weep for having wearied you. My father
Is hard at study; pray now, rest yourself;
He’s safe for these three hours.

Ferdinand (Saptak): You’re being very kind to me.

Miranda (Shrutakirti): I’ve never met a man like you before.

Ferdinand (Saptak): You’ve never met a man, full stop.

Miranda (Shrutakirti): There’s been no opportunity. Although I had a brief episode with Caliban once. But he just wanted to teach my father a lesson and give him some coloured grandchildren. He can be quite aggressive.

Ferdinand (Saptak): He seems nice.

Miranda (Shrutakirti): He could be if he didn’t fly into rages.

Ferdinand (Saptak): Are you and he still-

Miranda (Shrutakirti): No, no, that was over a long time ago. I wish I could leave this island.

Ferdinand (Saptak): You could come with us.

Miranda (Shrutakirti): Father will want to come as well. I think he has hopes.

Ferdinand (Saptak): Hopes?

Miranda (Shrutakirti): Hopes.

Ferdinand (Saptak): I see only one way out of this. We must get married.

Miranda (Shrutakirti): I don’t think-

Ferdinand (Saptak): Otherwise there’s no escaping for either of us!

Miranda (Shrutakirti): I suppose you’re right.

Exit, dejectedly.

Enter Somak.

Somak: Did you see that? I don’t think Prospero ever considered the possibility that people might not want to do what he told them. What self-absorption! That might be a clue as to why he was thrown out of Milan in the first place. No.

Pacing

This is unacceptable. This should not have happened. There should have been a revolution! An organized resistance! A statute of new laws, with Gonzalo as consulting adviser! This is ludicrous!
All right. This is how I see it. Prospero gives Caliban orders…

Prospero (Somak): You hag-seed! Get to it, pustulent native! Get to it, I said! Illiterate native! Barbarous savage! Nigger!

Caliban charges, abusing indiscernibly and indiscriminately.

Ariel protects Prospero while Saptak and Shrutakirti restrain Caliban

Somak: What the hell do you think you are doing? You think you are God? I know I am God because I’m the director of this f***ing play and all of you are my f***ing slaves. Chotolok! Shobkota chotolok! [Low-borns! All of you are low-borns!]

Ariel turns and charges, abusing indiscernibly and indiscriminately.

Saptak, Shrutakirti and Caliban restrain Ariel.

Ariel joins him, as do Miranda and Ferdinand.

Pantomime revolt.

A massive revolt takes place. The island becomes a Nation of Liberty. In mime.

Caliban and Ariel take up Classical heroic postures, flanking Ferdinand and Miranda. 

Ferdinand (Saptak): Let me live here ever;
So rare wonder’d a wife
Makes this place Paradise.

Miranda (Shrutakirti): O, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in’t!

Exit Arkaprabha, Shrutakirti, Saptak and Sourya into the audience.

Somak: Ariel is set free. Caliban finally can give up slaving and learn to read. The ship sails, stopping briefly mid-ocean to tip Prospero overboard. With no Ariel to help him, he dies, screaming the words ‘MY TRICKSY SPIRIT!! HELP!!’ And all ends happily.

Makes for the exit. Pauses and returns.

But if it has seemed to you that Prospero is misjudged, I must agree. With all his faults, the man had style. Consider his last words. Do you know them? Oh, you don’t. Okay. In that case, I think I might do a brief reading of his final lines. The play as it stood has fallen through, but what of it? The lines remain immortal. Are you ready? Are you ready? No? Okay. Ahem.

Punctuated by heckling of Saptak, Shrutakirti, Sourya and Arkaprabha from the audience

Now my charms are all o’erthrown,
And what strength I have’s mine own,
Which is most faint: now, ’tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardon’d the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell;
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands:
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon’d be,
Let your indulgence set me free.

Enter Saptak, Shrutakirti, Sourya and Arkaprabha, clapping and waving at the audience

And so ends the Tempest, or at least this reading. In a distant utopic future, perhaps I shall interpret Lear. I already feel a kingly fervour coming upon me-

Summary quieting by the collective and removal to the back.

All: Thank you.

Rest of the cast bow and exit.

Somak: Oh! It’s over. Thank you.

Exit.

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