A piece that mixes spectacle, satire
The NATIONAL Center for the Performing Arts (NCPA) hosted the inaugural performance of Every Good Boy Deserves Favor written by playwright Sir Tom Stoppard on Friday night. Directed by Bruce Guthrie, this large-scale production blends the beauty of theater with Western classical music and political satire. The show is a unique political satire, which was written by Stoppard at the request of the famous conductor/composer André Previn, who composed the music.
Considered an abstract yet daring play, it is set in the Soviet Union in 1977. Reflecting the political situations of that period, the play is set in a psychiatric hospital, where two characters – both named Alexander Ivanov – share a cell.
While one of them is a dissident and will not be freed until he admits that his statements against the government were caused by an alleged mental disorder, the other is a genuinely deranged schizophrenic, who thinks he’s part of an orchestra. As the piece is to be performed with an orchestra, it has only been performed a few times. Guthrie was tempted to revive it since the NCPA has its in-house professional orchestra – the India Symphony Orchestra.
“When I first moved here in 2019, I had a long conversation with NCPA President Khushroo N Suntook regarding what kind of show we could do at NCPA’s Jamshed Bhabha Theatre. We wanted to create productions that should be inspiring and entertaining. This piece is a rare piece in that sense. It’s multi-gender. It’s funny, moving and utterly topical and political,” Guthrie says. The 65-minute play includes two performances each scheduled on Saturday and Sunday. “That a play written 45 years ago is so relevant today is phenomenal. He talks about world politics, not just about India. In the UK, for example, freedom of speech and the right to protest are being eroded. You look at what is happening in America, Russia and China. There is unrest in Europe and the rise of fascism in Italy,” Guthrie says.
The NCPA originally planned to open this production in November 2020, but the plan was scrapped due to the pandemic. In addition to the actors, 45 musicians, six children from a percussion group and dancers are part of the show. The orchestra is like a character in the room and the musicians are on stage all the time.