Dario Fo’s plays are known for their almost absurd comic element as well as their biting satire. Although the only biting that happens in any of Stagefright&Panic performances is when the food is served, this is not a play or a story that is to be taken lightly. This play follows the fortunes of Elizabeth I, in the last years of her reign. She is a failing leader, losing her memory and her health and constantly plagued by bad luck. Elizabeth is haunted by the memory and the ghost of her sister Mary and (as with most leaders) is obsessed with her image and has her own beauty consultant to ensure she is kept looking her best. For Elizabeth’s misfortune this beauty consultant is a transvestite gypsy woman by the name of Mama Zaza whose treatments include fat-eating leeches, breast biting bees and the liberal application of ‘organic waste in varying states of decomposition’. Elizabeth is also harassed by unruly elements within her kingdom and her beleaguered Chief of Police (and of the intelligence service), Egerton is constantly under pressure to save his job (and his neck). The plots against the queen and attempts to malign her impeccable character are all revealed and everyone including one William Shakespeare is in danger of being arrested…
Anuruddha Fernando who describes himself the best 150 kilos that the acting profession has ever received, plays the role of the Queen Elizabeth. Having convinced himself that the larger the actor, the better the performance Anuruddha has devoted himself to a lifetime of consumption. Anuruddha, in certain moments pictures himself as an Orson Welles-ish kind of figure and although is devoid of any notable acting or creative talent, still manages to land some of the best roles in plays. This is largely attributed to his uncanny ability to be at the auditions on time and that he hangs out quite a lot with Feroze. He claims that his role as Elizabeth “will be my finest comic performance to date”. Considering that all his previous comic performances have been puerile, this would not be a difficult achievement.
Ifaz Bin Jameel, plays the role of Egerton, Elizabeth’s Chief of Police and Intelligence services. Ifaz has returned to the Stagefright&Panic team after a mysterious absence which he claims was due to his involvement with several Bollywood films. Ifaz claims to have acted with renowned Bollywood stars Karishma Kooper and Heretik Roshan in the blockbuster ‘Pichau Pilau’. Ifaz, is extremely upset at not having got the role of Elizabeth since he feels that with his international exposure he is the one who should have got the lead role. He has also complained to several NGO’s about being beaten up by Anuruddha and having to give up the lead role under duress. In addition to playing the role of Egerton, Ifaz also co-directs the play and is currently carrying out an organized vendetta against Anuruddha. It is widely believed that the tension between these two actors is reaching boiling point and Ifaz has been questioned by the authorities on his involvement in Anuruddha’s mysterious illness of a few weeks ago. Ifaz claims to be a ‘master of disguise’ and a vocal impresario. Those who know him well, know that this generally means him taking a haircut and doing clucking noises.
Michael Holsinger, makes a grand debut on stage in a Stagefright&Panic play for the first time. Having been involved in Feroze’s plays for 10 years and having never even been asked to act even once, it is widely regarded that he harbours a secret grudge against all theatre directors. He claims to be a far more dedicated actor than the others and in a burst of inspiration remembered all the lines of the first half. Subsequently, Michael has proceeded to forget all the lines and now attempts to ad lib his way through the performance. Michael claims that since his character Mama Zaza is a strange gypsy, transvestite make-up artiste cum beauty specialist, the ad-libbing of lines adds to the ‘spontaneity of the role’. Those who know Michael are impressed that he knew a big word like ‘spontaneity’.
The play also features Ryan Holsinger who plays the Queens lover, Kisholi de Mel who plays Martha the queen’s confidante and Muckshoodh Meerasaibu who plays the laughing assassin. Ryan claims that the role of Thomas’ the queens 18 year old lover is of paramount importance and has spent many hours practicing for the grand scene in which he literally jumps (on) the Queen! (Ryan is already on probation at his workplace and discreet inquiries are being made about openings in certain ‘institutions’)
Kisholi de Mel who played the role of Julia in the StageLight&Magic production of Big Brother is Watching in 2003 returns to a starring role as the queen’s long suffering confidante cum maidservant. Being the only genuine female in the play Kisholi is quite happy to finally get her own dressing room!