Paying a tribute to some of the greatest writers like William Shakespeare, Anton Chekhov and Henrik Ibsen, are two plays — Shakespearewallah and Ghosts by The Phoenix Players, a group established by actor and director Salim Ghouse and his wife Anita. The first production, borrows the idea from Chekhov’s Swan Song, while paying tribute to some of Salim’s favourite Shakespeare characters. “I’ve done many shows and often imagined what would happen when everyone left, if the spirit of theatre would come alive. I’ve used an old clown who after his farewell show, reminisces about his life. As his life unravels, he realises he didn’t do what he wanted to,” explains Salim who has long been an admirer of Chekhov’s works.
Shakespearewallah, has Salim in a solo 70-minute performance, with the clown’s alter ego as characters by Shakespeare. “If you know your technique it’s not too hard to hold an audience’s attention in a solo performance,” he explains, adding, “Shakespeare is the best thing to happen to an actor. Every generation should discover the magic of great writers. There’s so much truth and beauty behind the metaphors...The purpose of art is to make you think, and each person in the audience will take away something different from the play.”
The second play, Ghosts, a classic by Ibsen, is the study of a woman in a man’s world and the politics of patriarchy. “It’s a metaphor of dead beliefs and how most of us don’t have the courage to examine them,” says Salim. The central character is played by Anita, with the classic five-act play reduced to two acts. It’s also very relevant today, for issues on how women are treated in the country. “It shows how every woman all her life is either a daughter, wife or mother. In India, we worship Godess Parvati, yet beat women for dowry. This is my acknowledgment of women and the kind of work they do,” he adds.