Ranga Shankara’s theatre festival for children brought plays from diverse schools of thought
The International Theatre Festival for Children at Ranga Shankara had a line-up of plays – some local and some foreign.
“The Garbage Mouse” from the Schnawwl Theatre for Children and Youth of the Nationaltheater Mannheim, Germany was an engaging performance. With a single actor on stage, the play was largely in the story-telling mode with theatre thrown in for good measure. The story revolves around a little garbage mouse, who, one fine morning, is thrown out of her cosy confines, when the lady of the house shockingly discovers she has a rat living with her. What next? She ends up in a garbage bin – but ingenuous that she is, picks up abandoned stuff from garbage and builds a lovely home. The rather cute imagination of the little mouse with its long tail catches the fancy of children and in this interactive narrative, you actually find them offering suggestions.
Then it’s all happy – a new life, three little babies, an upturned umbrella for a cradle, feeding off the garbage, till one day, the busy garbage mouse spots a picture book with a cat popping out from it. After that one finds the terrified little mouse constantly thinking of ways and means to wage a battle with the cat and get it out of her life. She is scurrying up and down the stage, shifting her babies to safe locations. Each time she thinks of the cat and lets out a squeal, the children squeal as well. At one point, it seems like all the kids in auditorium and the mouse on stage are determined to get the picture book cat out of their lives.
The 50-minute performance by Jule Kracht is lively and easy. What she does with an empty stage is quite fascinating. Children are thrilled to bits with the little mouse emerging victorious over the big, bad cat – even if it’s an imaginary one. The entire play rested on a suspension of disbelief, and with children it worked wonders. But really, there wasn’t much to the play.
“The Stones” put up by Zeal Theatre, Australia, was a more serious play – told in a high-energy, garrulous mode. The play based on a real-life incident has seen over 900 performances, enacted all over the globe.
The two unnamed boys, 13 and 15, occupied the entire theatre space with their amazing physical movements. They played the guitar and sang as well. With an untamed curiosity and excessive indulgence, the boys succumb to peer pressure and on a fateful evening, they go up a bridge and end up throwing a huge rock off the bridge, killing the driver. What starts of as a wild, physical comedy with terrific performances by the two actors takes a serious turn with the boys being tried for their unforgivable act of irresponsibility. The duo play the multiple characters of the play – the cop, the judge, parent with such remarkable ease, and at no point does the body language get sloppy or does the energy levels of the actors dip. In fact, there isn’t much by way of sets, but what they achieve is rather remarkable.
The audience, by now on tenterhooks, is quite relieved by what was hailed as a landmark judgement – “the boys have suffered enough during these months of trial to be punished any further.”
The play elicited a lot of audience response; the duo performed brilliantly to leave a lasting impact. The fact that the two boys had no names gained significance.