The Times of June 24, has an account of the staging of the Mahabharata in Sadler's Wells theatre in London. The writer's (Mr. John Percival) comment is :
They have brought five different programmes. Monday's Mahabharata lasted almost three hours and these are only extracts from the full dance-play! It is about a king so stupid that the loses all his wealth, kingdom, brothers, wife and finally self, playing dice with three most obvious cheats you ever saw in your life; and then about the bloodthirsty vengeance his brother Bhima takes on two men who insulted the (apparently communal) wife. The mixture of knock-about comedy and violent tragedy is reminiscent of Jacobean drama. The gambling game has a droll inevitability as, one by one, the brothers cross the stage into captivity, and their enemy Dussasana dances with growing glee at their discomfiture. The murder of Dussasana by Bhima is horrifying as the killer gets blood all over his hands, rips open his victim's belly with bare fingers, and pulls out lengths of gut to chew. The fact the blood is red paint and the gut red cord is irrelevant: the intention is frightening and the effect horrific. An objection from the view point of Western audiences is that even these scenes, which have a universal dramatic appeal, tend to be long-winded by our standards; and that between them are expository passages which, without understanding of the chanted commentary, make little sense. Close study of the long, explanatory programme is essential for even partial comprehension; arrive not less than fifteen minutes early to allow for this point. The programme assures us, incidentally, that before performing, the actors “wait until the spirit of the god enters into them”. What if the god refuses, I wondered; Is the performance deferred or an understudy called? The explanation of an Indian friend is more prosaic: “They have to work just harder."