DIWAN SINGH BAJELI
Mandala’s “The Magic Circle”, despite being a children’s play, focused on serious social problems afflicting us.
Rough edges indicate that the production belongs to the children and not to a professional director
For the next few weeks most of the auditoriums of the Capital will be enlivened by the excitement of children accompanied by their parents. It is the time when routine theatrical activities take a back seat and dramatic presentations by children for children acquire the main focus. Watching a performance by children, with an audience comprising children, in the auditorium is a rare pleasure. One such evening was offered by Mandala, which presented “The Magic Circle” at Stein Auditorium, this past week.
Mandala’s production is the outcome of a month-long workshop, with Lokesh Jain and his collaborator Chavi Jain being the main organisers. Jain does not borrow any written script to thrust upon the children. They are instead given liberty to draw thematic elements from different aspects of their life in an urban milieu.
Lokesh is an artiste who is aware of his civic responsibility. Not long ago in a solo performance he portrayed the character of Akkar Mashi from the autobiographical work by Sharan Kumar Limbala, a trendsetter Dalit writer, which was remarkable for its searing poignancy, severely indicting a system based on the caste system.
Working with children, he imparts in a subtle way the creativity of children to dramatise social issues like pollution, the lack of space for children to play, the despotic attitude of parents who force outdated values on their children. The issues of saving tigers, the need for a sensible approach to curb speed and the wanton use of cars also form a part of the presentation. While playing theatre games, the outline of these issues is expanded and revealed through dance, music, lyrics and drama almost in an effortless manner. The lyrics are written collectively by the children and some lyrics written by Lokesh are rewritten by the performers to be in tune with the sensibility of children.
The production shuns sophistication and intricate choreography. The rough edges here and there indicate that the production essentially belongs to the children and not to a professional stage director.
It all begins with a group of children visiting a mysterious island, which induces a kind of forgetfulness. There is a character named Samay (Time), who takes the children to various places, highlighting social problems. The children are shocked to see the frenzied desire of man to acquire material comfort and grab space meant for the sports of children and wild animals — the world they confront is soulless. There is all round chaos. The city is being lost in the madness of speed with no destination to reach.
Samay asks the children where they would like to go. Would they leave this world, which is being wantonly destroyed? The children reply that they would remain in this world and bring new sunshine, colour and happiness to this world in which man, animal and nature coexist and grow in their own space.
There is also an episode of a magic show where children perform tricks, offering moments of amusements. Despite its social message, the production does not acquire a preachy tone, it seeks to blend a social message with entertainment.
The evening concluded with the projection of an image of man entrapped by motor tyres, symbolising the unfettered growth of the automobile industry, which is choking human life on earth. The performers are going to a hilly village in Uttarakhand to stay with farmers for a few days to experience the pleasure of living close to nature and to know about the life of simple farmers having few modern amenities.