Sabine Lehman, drew gasps of appreciation and admiration in her gorgeous Queenly dress as she sat high above her subjects. The setting was superb, and when Queen Sabine cleared her throat and a humble servant held a spittoon for her to shoot the offending spittle from her mouth, the audience roared with delight. This single scene alone spoke volumes for the capabilities of Sabine as a director and Ludmilla Hungerhuber as a set designer. We all loved “Charandas: The Honest Thief” and one would have to be daft not to appreciate theater of this caliber.
The play was staged at the Naga Theatre in Hotel Vajra from 4 to 20 May. Most of the cast besides Sabine and Ludmilla were Nepali, and they put up an excellent show. Deeya Maskey gave a flawless performance as Charandas, the philosophical thief who believes in being an honest thief. The play was a modern adaptation of the Rajasthani folktale by Habib Tanvir entitled “Charandas Chor”. Charandas believes thievery is a profession given to him by God and wants to make a good job of it.
Ludmilla was outstanding in her comical portrayal of the Havildar who is forever on the lookout for Charandas, to nab him red-handed. The thief has a good heart and a conscience that stops him from going against his promises to his guru, played brilliantly by Rajesh Shrestha. The Nepali actors were impressive, playing multiple roles.
The Queen’s infatuation with the lowly Charandas leads to some hilarious scenes. Sabine’s subtle interaction with the audience was laudable. She drew the viewers right into the play. Another highlight of the play was Tshering Dholkar Lama’s rapping with a group of other singers. She had the crowd in raptures.
The play starts on a serious note in low key, but slowly picks up momentum and the action gets more intense. All the action on stage was pieced together by live music. The period costume along with traditional musical instruments used by the actors gave the set its appropriate feel.
Studio 7 has been entertaining theater goers since 1982 and their experience shows. One of the most consistent theater groups in Nepal, they have been doing a commendable job. Given their devotion to theater, it becomes obvious that the duo, Sabine and Ludmilla, love what they have been doing for the last twenty-five years.