Bengaluru-based Sandbox Collective is in town with two unmissable productions.
A rib-tickling play for young audiences, the provenance of which can be traced to a German children’s picture-book from 1990, will be performed in Mumbai for the first time this week, as part of Prithvi Theatre’s Summertime season of offerings for children. Frauke Nahrgang and Winfrid Opgenoorth’s Die Kuh Rosalinde, which is still in publication today, was first adapted for the stage as Rosemarie The Cow by Swiss playwright Andri Beyeler, and premiered in 2002 at Lucerne.
Bengaluru-based Sandbox Collective’s first play for children, How Cow Now Cow, directed by Vinod Ravindran, has been devised from an English translation of Beyeler’s German play, and the eponymous cow has been rechristened Rosamma.
“A lot has changed from the original as we went about adapting it for a local audience. The storytelling now includes elements of object theatre and shadow puppetry,” says Ravindran of the 55-minute production.
Layers of nuance
The play has completed an impressive 11o shows since it first opened at Bengaluru’s Jagriti Theatre in 2015. Part of this hinges upon the easy accessibility of the material—there are actors impersonating animals, the inventively used props play their part, and an endearingly cantankerous cow is at the center of the piece. Rosamma’s crankiness becomes a sore point for the other farm animals, and the farmer must take matters into hand to restore the idyll of the farm.
“While it isn’t a morality tale, it is layered and deep, and children have responded to that in unexpected ways,” says Ravindran, who assiduously worked towards creating a production that would be especially portable.
Minimal sets and a small crew allowed them to travel extensively while keeping costs low. Even then, putting together an out-station tour to Mumbai, for instance, proved difficult for a while. The bulk of their shows have been in Karnataka, where they have performed in government schools, NGO-run centers, as well as regular arts venues. A Kannada translation by K.G. Rajalakshmi, sometimes used in tandem with the English text, allowed them to expand their reach to children in remote or marginalized communities.
One of the incentives offered by Prithvi during Summertime, for troupes with children’s plays in the chock-a-block itinerary, are the slots made available in the evenings to showcase their regular “adult” fare. Accordingly, Sandbox will be staging Sophia Stepf’s award-winning play C Sharp C Blunt. Created in association with the Germany-based Flinn Works, the quirky one-woman piece opened in 2013 at Jagriti Theatre, and has completed 55 shows since then. It features a stunning central performance by actor and songbird M.D. Pallavi as Shilpa, a software application that simulates a female Indian singer for its (mostly male) clientele.
An impressive live soundscape, executed by sound artist Nikhil Nagaraj, blends seamlessly with Pallavi’s vocal performance as the “singing app.” Interactive elements exhort members of the audience to participate in the customization of the app’s user experience, and the results can be surprising, and even unnerving.
Since 2013, Sandbox’s forays into works like Stepf’s, that are decidedly cutting-edge, is certainly laudatory. They have firmly entrenched themselves into the theatre eco-system with an unrivaled tenacity of approach, setting up national and international cultural exchanges, and facilitating India-wide tours of offbeat works like Anish Victor’s Koogu (their first production) and Mandeep Raikhy’s Queen-Size. This year they flagged off a couple of new international collaborations. The first was the India leg of Ef_femininity, a collaborative work between Swiss artists Marcel Schwald and Chris Leuenberger, that dealt with gender identity and fluidity and featured Indian performers like Diya Naidu and Living Smile Vidya. In February, German director Felix Mathias Ott opened Ramanaya (not a typo), performed by Puja Sarup and Ravindran. It was an exploration of the Indian epic that fell in place during a two-week residency in Berlin attended by both actors.
How Cow Now Cow and C Sharp C Blunt are being staged today at Prithvi Theatre, Juhu; check bookmyshow for more details
This article originally appeared in The Hindu on May 24, 2018, and has been reposted with permission.
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This post was written by Vikram Phukan.
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