Monday, May 14, 2012

Packed with a universal truth

April 21, 2012, DHNS:

A tale of displacement, adventure, conflict, disappointment yet hope. That was the essence of the play ‘Boy With a Suitcase”, by ‘Do I Know You?’, a collaborative theatre partnership between Ranga Shankara and Schnawwl-National Theatre, Germany.

The play opens with a fusion song in Hindi, Tamil, Kannada, Spanish, German and Russian, immediately signifying the global reach of the story to follow. Shrunga B V from Bangalore, plays 12-year-old Naz, upon whom adventure and unwanted circumstances are dumped. He is forced to leave his home and parents due to conflict, in search of a land that is ‘heaven on Earth and milk and honey’.

In this case, the destination was the aspirational London, where his sister lives. Naz, having being brought up on stories of Sindbad dutifully told by his mother, takes on the misfortune like his sailor hero would — as an adventure.  Director Andrea Gronemeyer from the Schnawwl-National Theatre says the aim was to show that Naz could be from a particular country, but his problems, are universal. “It’s more than just a story. It is reality. Children and adults alike can relate to the characters despite the difference in German and Indian culture.”

About the experience and response from the Indian audience, Andrea says that because of the better grasp of the English language, it is far more fun and fulfilling to perform in India. “The people here get the nuances and understand the illusions. Hearing them sigh and laugh at the exact moments we’d imagined only means that we’ve reached our goal of sensitising people with art.”

Although the play focuses on Naz, it is in fact a flashback that is being narrated by an older Naz, who has clearly escaped his earlier misfortunes. This older version, performed brilliantly by David Benito Garcia, holds the story together, shuttling the audience beautifully from past to present.

Another significant character is the vibrant Krezia, played by Lea Whitcher, another young refugee who befriends Naz on his ‘voyages’. The support caste included M D Pallavi, Nikolai Jegorow in varying roles as well as Coordt Linke and Konarak Reddy, who also provided live background music.

Fourteen-year-old Sakshi Sinha spoke for her brother, Sourav as well when she said that she was moved by the show. “It made me think of what I would do if I left home. I guess the point is that eventually no matter what your background, people all over the world struggle.” 

Be it border control guards or hungry wolves, Krizia and ‘Sindbad’ (as Naz introduces himself to the girl) overcome several hurdles, as they run towards the elusive land where troubles cease to be. And in an end that is hopeful but realistic, Naz does get to his sister, but finds the promised land “no different from home and is hell on Earth.”

Artistic Director, Arundhati Nag, says that the collaboration was a great step forward for theatre. “To see three years of hard work culminate in this magial show is very inspiring. The artistes are from six countries with only two whose prime language is English, which shows it’s not a mix but a true blend.”

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