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Lear’s Indian Daughters

March 28, 2013

From a blog post by Preti Taneja:

On the eve of International Women’s Day, I sat in the elegant old auditorium of Indraprastra College, an all-women’s institution and one of the oldest colleges in the University of Delhi. With delegates of the conference ‘Revisiting Shakespeare in Indian Literatures and Cultures’, organised jointly with the Shakespeare Society of India, I waited to see what a student devised performance entitled ‘Lear’s Daughters’ might offer. As the lights went down three female dancers dressed in black lycra took the stage. The beats of drum ‘n’ bass music began, and a voiced collage of every abusive curse made against women in ‘King Lear’ reverberated around the auditorium. Spinning and falling, the dancers attempted to fly against an insurmountable male-strom of rage, moving as if every word caused them physical pain. The voices got louder and louder, until the overlapping of ‘tigers, not daughters’ and ‘better thou had not been born!’ and ‘Fie! Fie! Fie! Fie!’ became unbearable to hear. This modern interpretative dance gave way to scenes from the play costumed in the old traditional colonial style of doing Shakespeare – the king in a red robe and crown, the daughters in long skirts, a contrast of old and new. As the acted part of the play ended, this chorus began again; the dancers reappeared, the drum beat swelled and the performance finished as it started. The punchline went to the Fool who sadly told the audience, ‘the rain it raineth every day.’

Listening and watching on such a day, it was impossible to ignore that these students are the peers of a young Indian girl whose rape in Delhi and eventual death from her injuries recently made headlines around the world.[…] The chorus that started and ended this ‘Lear’s Daughters’ commented on a culture of misogyny that forms the background noise to being a woman in India today.[…]

Read more here.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 29, 2013 4:04 pm

    Performance that connects and subverts such traditionally revered texts as ‘King Lear’ offer a powerful means to reflect and comment on current social and political conditions. It is to be hoped that these young women take their convictions forward to the world outside the college grounds, to provoke necessary debate, without fear of physical and sexual violence, or being accused of a lack of respect for elders. Only by doing so might they challenge, and perhaps eventually improve the current status quo.”

    I believe we’re all thankful for the performance by these actors! And, thank you, Theophrastus for drawing our attention to them and their connecting and subverting so powerfully in this way. And, of course, we must also thank Preti Taneja!

  2. March 30, 2013 10:23 am

    Wow. Thanks for posting this, Theophrastus.

  3. April 3, 2013 7:58 pm

    Kurk, Victoria, thanks for your comments. I have to say that Preti Taneja’s writing is so evocative that I almost feel as if I personally witnessed this performance.

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