Review in Rhyme: Beastly Tales by Motley

Posted on Jul 4th, 2017 by Shuchi in Reviews, Comedy, English, Motley

Beastly Tales reading by Naseeruddin Shah, Ratna Pathak Shah, Heeba Shah and Kenny Desai

[Poems and stories of top grade
By James Thurber and Vikram Seth,
Read aloud by three Shahs, one Desai
At Jagriti. 2017, the first weekend of July.
With no fancy props of light or decor,
The text and voice engaged Bangalore.
A review – for better or worse –
Written in AABB verse.]

Beloved collection of tales in rhyme
To be read on stage by actors sublime —
The prospect had me in eager wait:
I imagined nothing short of great.

Unlike Seth’s tales that end mostly grim
With hopes thwarted (or at least made dim)
My story goes well, I’m happy to report
What I anticipated is what I got.

Four players, decked in red blue green and yellow
Lent voice to yarns rather far from mellow
"Beastly" is so apt a word
For these wily tales of animal and bird.

At the outset, the cast set out to regale
Us with The Frog and The Nightingale
We knew we’re in for a stretch of fun
When Naseer croaked a batrachoidal "awn".

With winning wordplay to bolster it
This rhyming fable full of wit
Cautioned us, besides delighting,
Of the evils of gaslighting.

[The crossword setter accompanying me
Made special note of the parody
In the "Owl" Of Sandwich and, to boot,
Of Monte Cristo – the "Coot".]

The scene soon shifted to Mosquito and Louse
In which Ratna P Shah rocked the house
Her vocal skills – pretty awesome –
Made the louse lisp, the mosquito hum.

[Must add: she has a remarkable flair
For sneering smile and icy glare
Of which we saw an unscripted demonstrance
When a phone ring interrupted her performance.]

Thurber’s tales, straight prose and terse
Complemented Seth’s metered verse
Droll, satirical and, by design,
They trail off with a moral punchline.

Filling the whole post-interval span
Was Seth’s The Elephant and the Tragopan
A socio-political eco poem as finale
Set in mythical Bingle Valley.

Of the dramatization, I was keen to see
The handling of enjambment in Seth’s poetry
Since, when meanings overrun the words that rhyme,
The pauses must pay special heed to time.

On this count, how did the cast fare?
With great dexterity, I declare.
And even when long twisted lines were read
One could sense no shortness of breath.

Beastly Tales is tagged a Children’s Show
Is this okay? I do not know
I’d hazard the sombre themes and gore
Qualifies it for audiences more mature.

The angry speeches are not "kid-friendly" nice,
In every other tale someone horribly dies.
The hare’s passing in The Eagle & the Beetle [1]
Made even me shudder more than a leetle.

If this rhyming business is too much by far
For you, here’s a TL;DR
A five-word review, straight and pithy:
"Time well spent at Jagriti."


[1] I replicate here the passage in question
So you can make your own decision
On whether your young ones may be addressed
With readings of this style of text.

"You puny, servile, cloddish bug-
Go off and hide your ugly mug.
How do you dare assume the right
To meddle with my appetite?
This hare’s my snack. Have you not heard
I am the great god Zeus’s bird?
Nothing can harm me, least of all
A slow, pathetic, droning ball.
Here keep your friend’s head-" And she tore
The hare’s head off, and swiftly bore
His bleeding torso to her nest,
Ripped off his tail, and ate the rest.

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Article by Shuchi

Shuchi lives in Bangalore (mostly), when she isn’t traveling out of town for work. She adores theatre and writes about plays she watches whenever she gets a chance.

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11 Comments to “Review in Rhyme: Beastly Tales by Motley”

  1. Bravo!

    It was indeed a pleasure to hear,
    And see this extraordinarily superb performance,
    In the company of someone dear.
    I marvel at her review’s rhyming eloquence.

    I am pretty much smitten,
    She did not miss to report a thing,
    The review is very well written,
    She included even the telephone ring.

    July 4th, 2017 8:40 am

  2. Thanks for the kind praise
    In your versified comment;
    You’ve kept the poetic fervour ablaze
    Which merits a higher compliment.

    Thanks too for changing rhyme scheme
    Same same spells monotony;
    Your words have prodded me to deem
    Fitting to reply in ABAB.

    July 4th, 2017 8:45 pm

  3. πŸ™‚


    July 5th, 2017 6:23 pm

  4. The review is as impressive as the recital of the Beastly Tales.Kudos Shuchi !!

    July 7th, 2017 1:49 pm

  5. We saw at Jagriti too
    The Shah-Desai-Seth-Thurber do
    We rolled in the aisles
    (We’re comedy philes!)
    And split deep our sides. Yes, it’s true!

    July 7th, 2017 2:17 pm

  6. From one Rao to other,
    “A nice limerick, brother,
    It’s fun and nice,
    All sugar and spice,
    Do let me know when you write another.”

    July 9th, 2017 9:39 pm

  7. @Shantanu Consul: Thank you very much πŸ˜€

    @Manohar Rao:

    Welcome to the house,
    Your limerick’s worthy of wows!
    Loved the style
    Of matching aisle-phile –
    This site’s jazzed up by two rhymer Raos.

    July 9th, 2017 10:11 pm

  8. Brilliant writing !

    July 9th, 2017 10:28 pm

  9. Really enjoyed this. The rhymes would have made Vikram Seth happy :). Just a thought, judging from how violent fairy tales are, I think kids mind violence far less than analytical adults do πŸ˜›

    July 9th, 2017 10:42 pm

  10. @Shweta Pande, @Brishti: Thank you! Interesting what you say about kids and violence…you may be on to something there πŸ™‚

    July 10th, 2017 10:56 am

  11. Beautifully reviewed!
    Unfortunately, I have neither seen the performance nor read these poems or stories. However, having gone through your lyrical review, I am very curious to read them. πŸ™‚

    July 20th, 2017 10:22 am

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