English theatre in the city is on a sure high in the city. In recent times, Bangalore has been witness to some good plays from across the country. Mumbai’s Working Title is back in the city with their latest production ‘Day I met the Prince’. Alternative, offbeat work has been there forte ever since they started out. Seeking to take theatre to a varying age group, their performance venues have ranged from conventional theatres to schools and colleges, to conferences and seminars, to 5-star hotels as well as village fairs of a few thousand people.
This time around the focus is on children. According to members of Working Title, most children’s theatre in India tends to be either preachy or escapist. The children are either “talked down” to or they are encouraged to explore a fantasy world that has little to do with the times that they are growing up in, and the issues they must be made aware of. ‘Day I met the Prince’ is about celebrating diversity and taking a humorous dig at the extreme hurry life is in these days. It is fantasy-filled given that attracts children the most and more so ever it is about making every child feel special. They strongly believe that every child deserves to celebrate every second of his or her life.
The play was adapted to Indian context by Nayantara Roy. Nayantara Roy began in Bangalore as an actor and writer, in addition to having ad-films, short films and documentaries to her credit. She moved to Mumbai and is pursuing the career along the same lines. She says, “We believe that children’s theatre actually requires a higher degree of craft, honesty and commitment from theatrepersons. Kids are extremely intelligent and sensitive people, especially in this day and age of the information and media boom, and it is the theatreperson who needs to keep abreast with their thoughts, ideas, challenges, emotions – not the other way around. We have as much to learn from kids as they do from us, perhaps even more so.”
Although a play meant for children, the director precisely points that it is relevant to both children and adults. “Also, the entire play sees the world from the child’s point of view, especially in all scenes where there is interaction between the protagonists and adult characters. The bits that are directly interactive with the audience again utilize humor to drive home very important issues without ever falling prey to preaching.”, adds Nayantara.
“Children’s theatre requires great deal of craft and honesty along with making them enjoy it as well. Celebrating their identity and deals with issues of identity, diversity and respect for others among other things. Kids completely technologically wired these days and in this play we are looking at breaking the fourth wall. When I read the play written by Kuo Pao Kun, I found the issues extremely relevant to India as well even though the context in the original play was Singapore.”, said Jaimini Pathak, director of the play. Jaimini Pathak has been director, actor, producer, playwright, columnist, workshop conductor and film actor in Mumbai for close to twenty years. Recent Film credits include Subhash Ghai’s Black and White and Sudhir Mishra’s Hazaron Khwahishein Aisi.
Fun and laughter and enjoyment is guaranteed the use of Magic, live music, songs and dance. They believe that children respond best to underlying issues in any play only when they have been thoroughly entertained in the performance. This aspect was well appreciated by the India Foundation for the Arts (IFA) who gave them a seeding grant under their ‘new and emerging work’ category.
After eleven shows in Mumbai, the play will showcase in Ranga Shankara on the 10th and 11th of July with two shows at 3:30pm and 7:30pm on each day. Apart from that, they are also performing at several city schools like Delhi Public School, Mallya Aditi and Prakriya on Monday and Tuesday.