Theatre

Puppet masters

Magical Whispers, a relatively new theatre collective, aims to use puppetry to help children’s development

Four certified storytellers from different parts of Mumbai felt a lacuna for children’s theatre in the city. They decided to do something about it, and the collective called Magical Whispers came into being.

“Back [when I lived in] Pune, during my school days, I used to participate a lot in drama and theatre,” says Madhuri Kale, a certified puppeteer and founding member of the group. “[In Mumbai,] children do not have direct access to theatre. They have to either join an acting institution or join a theatre group after they grow up.” Plus, the city is seeing an increasing number of nuclear families contributing largely to a childhood of isolation.

Hence, about six months ago, Kale brought together a group of like-minded individuals. There’s Shraddha Sheth, a classical and folk dancer; Kavita Rajput, a counsellor with training from the Tata Institute for Social Sciences (TISS); and Yesha Kapadia, the group’s youngest member and a trained musician specialised in playing the synthesiser and drums.

In the past six months, Magical Whispers has staged 12 shows for children in the city. On Friday evening, they take children on yet another adventure, with folk tales from across the world. With life-size puppets, the collective aims to get the little ones into the Yuletide spirit and simultaneously preserve the art of puppetry.

Traditional forms of puppetry require heavy raw materials and puppets that are extremely time consuming to craft. However, Magical Whispers eschews the conventional string, rod and shadow methods. Instead, they have created the alternative technique known as Recycled Puppetry. Kale and her troupe make use of waste materials such as bottles, cardboard boxes, bottle caps and even old clothes.

“As puppeteers, we get the freedom of expression and are not bound by material or time-consuming methods of creating puppets,” says Kale citing the example of The Return of Ravan, a show where they created the demon using bottles. She further continues that Magical Whispers puppets do not have to adhere to particular standards for their silhouettes. “In our upcoming show, we have a larger-than-life size fairy puppet.”

Friday’s show is called Opera of Puppets: Hope and focuses on a compilation of German Christmas folktales. “So, do you know why pine trees are decorated and lit up during Christmas?” asks Kale. Apparently, the story goes like this. A German Count falls in love with an enchanting and beautiful fairy. “One fine day, they decide to meet under a pine tree in their town. After that day, the Count wishes to meet her again. But the fairy doesn’t turn up.” In the hope that the Count sights his love again, he decorates the pine tree beneath which they would meet. As an ode to their love, people have continued the tradition.

Kale gets actors to put on the recycled puppet suits for this show. “For other puppets, we [usually] stand behind and make the movements. Since these puppets are larger in size than us, we won’t be seen by the audience.”

To make Opera of Puppets: Hope an interactive experience, the collective will get the children in the audience to participate in creating sounds for the show. With Magical Whispers, Kale and group aim to develop children socially and emotionally.

“Stories and puppets are the best way to take a child into the world of dreams,” says Kale.

In just six months, Magical Whispers has grown. “We have an invitation to perform at Kala Ghoda festival in 2017,” says Kale. Then there’s another event already scheduled for February during the Chinese New Year. “We will host puppet shows retelling the lantern festival, dragon chronicles and other mythological stories.”

So far, they’ve only relied on social media for promotion with little help from peers in the arts community. Their work with children and puppets is a welcome addition to the city’s culture scape.

The writer is an intern with The Hindu

Opera of Puppets: Hope will take place at 5.30 p.m today at CLAP Centre, Malad (West). Tickets to the event are priced at Rs. 600 for adults and Rs. 350 for children under the age of 10.

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Printable version | Jul 2, 2020 12:40:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/theatre/Puppet-masters/article16927064.ece

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