Boy With A Suitcase, penned by British writer Mike Kenny, follows the story of a little boy Naz, who decides to leave home and head to London, the ‘land of dreams’. Naz’s journey is full of adventure and, all throughout, he is guided ably by the stories of Sindbad the Sailor that his mother has told him during his early childhood. During the course of his trip, he evolves as an individual and learns about diverse cultures.
German director Andrea Gronemeyer, who helmed the play, could identify with the protagonist Naz. After all, she, too, got an opportunity to closely interact with the Bengaluru-based theatre group Ranga Shankara, collaborate with its members and learn about the Indian theatre scene while working on the Indo-German co-production.
After the play premiered in Germany last April and was staged in Bengaluru in June 2011 as part of the Wanderlust project launched by the German government, it has now been invited by the Goethe Institut to tour four cities in India. This year, the play will be staged as a project within the framework of “Germany and India 2011-2012: Infinite Opportunities.” This is the first time it will be performed in Mumbai.
Gronemeyer, who is associated with German theatre group Schnawwl Manneheim, which largely focuses on children’s plays, explains how the collaboration between the two companies took place. “I launched AHA! (Ranga Shankara’s Theatre for Children programme) in 2006 with our play Robinson and Crusoe. I was very impressed by India and Arundhati Nag (the founder of Ranga Shankara). When the German government announced the Wanderlust programme that asked for German theatres to collaborate with foreign companies, I knew I had to collaborate with her.”
As part of the programme, Gronemeyer and Nag had to work for three years. “Each year we had to achieve different milestones and results. So we met in Germany and India to chart out the programme and what we intended to achieve in each phase. It was delightful and ensured there was a lot of cultural and theatrical exchange. The teams had people from both companies — actors, musicians, costume designers, technicians, etc.
During the course of the collaboration, the biggest lesson Gronemeyer learnt was that Indian theatre companies face an arduous task when it comes to helming plays since they don’t enjoy any financial support from the government. She says, “For someone who comes from Germany where there is so much state sponsorship for theatre, this was a whole new revelation. Ranga Shankara has world-class theatre facility that has been built thanks to the contributions made by donors.”
The German director admits that she felt like a mother many times when she was helming the play. After all, she had to take care of the moods of the actors, understand their emotions and then focus on the design, costumes and sets. “But keeping the universality of the theme and ensuring that the audiences sensed homogeneity in presentation was the biggest challenge,” she signs off.