Suffused with humor and message, the plays staged during the Tifli-International TYA Festival-2017 attracted children in all age groups.
The seven-day Tifli-International TYA Festival-2017, which ended this past week at Bal Bhavan, New Delhi, evoked a tremendous response from children of different age groups who enjoyed themselves a great deal watching plays produced by seasoned directors and performed by adult actors from India as well as abroad. In this greatly enriching theatrical event, 35 public schools, eight NGOs, and a large number of children with their parents attended special evening shows. A total of 15 plays were staged with each performing three shows at different Bal Bhavan venues.
An intricate and highly polished theatrical piece, Grandfather’s House, was infused with the feelings of nostalgia, moments of pathos, a sense of loss and celebration of happiness. Subtle lighting, poetically intense imagery, and silences were hallmarks of this production presented by Cie Akselere, France which was directed by Colette Garrigan. We get the feel of a rural landscape where grandfather’s house is situated. Elements of the circus are incorporated into it to create an intimate theatre. Every theatrical element and properties were meticulously placed at the right space that forms the part of the artistic whole. In the production, the place of pride is given to a clock placed on a wooden structure. Much of the narrative emerges out of the clock exuding autobiographical elements, revealing the story of a grandfather, the pebbled path that leads to his house. A wire on which little puppets are manipulated by two puppeteers enact finer nuances of the narrative. There are moments of joy, sorrow, and fulfilling moments of bonding. Grandfather’s first wife dies, leaving him lonely and forlorn and then another woman enters his life, making him happy.
Another captivating production was offered to the audience by Mandragora Circus from Argentina under the joint direction of Mariana Silva and Juan Cruz Bracamonte. The duo displayed their skill and consummate artistry. It is a production without words and the performers acting as clowns are expressive enough, establishing a lively rapport with the audience, frequently sharing the acting space with the audience. The ways various acrobatic acts are performed by them evoke laughter. To provide a lyrical undercurrent to the production, Juan frequently used music to evoke moods ranging from romance, joy, and sorrow but the dominant mood is one of fun and an invitation to join in the creation of happy moments.
Trying to amuse the children in the auditorium, the performers of Jagriti Theatre, Bangalore resorted to antics before enacting all-time great Panchtantra stories. Directed by Rebecca Supergeon, one of the stories entitled, Monkey And The Crocodile had elements of suspense, fine storytelling device with emphasis on visual imagery, conveying the inherent moral of the story. Two other stories it presented need life and vitality. Using antics as an opening of the show is hardly in tune with the serious intent of the stories.
The event offered a new kind of drama which could be called as Baby Theatre which captures the world of a little baby girl who plays with her dolls and things that are part of her surroundings. The baby tries to recreate a little world of her own with the material available. Presented by Entertainment, New Delhi, My Room My World, conceptualized by Imran Khan, showcases a little girl, engrossed in her own world. The pace is slow to reflect little girl’s limited space and the few dialogues are rendered in low pitch. There is nothing larger than life, everything is starkly realistic.
One of the most meaningful, intimate and hilarious productions of the festival was Laa Polaa Children’s Voice presented by Laa Po Laa, TIE, Ahmedabad which uses clowning and gibberish to communicate its theme. Directed by Walter Peter who gives a solo performance as a clown, established his direct rapport with children, evoking laughter with his style of appearing on the stage out of the huge cardboard box, his face painted in deep colors of different type. His weird face and bizarre costumes are a source of humor. Using Laa Po Laa as a musical refrain, Walter created a musical rhythm for the production which is rendered by the audience–the auditorium echoed with Laa Po Laa. He invited the excited members of the audience to collaborate in his enactment of hilarious situations. Through his ingenious device, the entire hall was transformed into a stage and the audience into performers, creating such magical atmosphere to convey the message of empowerment of girl child, condemning the heinous act of aborting female fetus and removal of the practice of child labor. This is the right way of making theatre entertaining as well as educative.
Wolf Child, staged by University of North Carolina Greensboro and North Carolina Theatre for Young People, USA, depicted the story of a wolf child who was captured from the jungle where he was happily living with other wild animals, behaving and walking like them. In tune with nature, he was totally alien to the language and manners and eating habits of humans. After being captured by men, he is subjected to a tortuous course of the imposition of human language, cloth wearing codes and eating habits. He is confined, brutally treated with disdain, the women who are engaged in teaching him human manners display some compassion, and the master of the educators treats them harshly. His approach to humanizing the wolf boy is inhuman. It is aimed at destroying his identity, imposing another identity alien on him. Director Todd production unfolds on a bare stage using two blocks and a few chairs. Downstage is used to unfold dramatic action. The agony of the wolf boy caused by the cruelty inflicted by his so-called educators revealed effectively through another character as his alter ego.
This is a serious play which could appeal to the adult audience as a severe indictment of colonial powers who under the notorious notion of white man’s burden destroyed the rich civilization of Afro-Asian people.
This post originally appeared in The Hindu on December 15, 2017, and has been reposted with permission.
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.