Travelling from the backwaters of Kerala to the hills of Kashmir, as Gauri undertakes the arduous journey to bring back her friend Kumar, she recreates on stage the magic of Hans Christian Andersen’s European tale, The Snow Queen. The Indian adaptation has been conceptualised by Anupama Chandrasekhar an premiered at the Unicorn Theatre in London in November. After over 50 successful shows, the children’s play has now been brought to India by the British Council.
“We staged the play in Chennai and the kids loved it,” says Chandresekhar, who adds that over 10,000 people have witnessed and appreciated the play in the UK. “After the play, one of the kids in the audience walked up to the director and said — I didn’t feel like I was watching a play, I felt I was in it,” adds Chandrasekhar.
Being a play based in an Indian setting, she feels the Indian kids connect with it better. “The kids here are watching something that is part of their lives. For the kids in London, it was like watching fantasy,” she explains.
Though the play is set in India, the cast of the play is multicultural. “The cast includes actors from Africa, Sri Lanka, Indian and Britain and it’s great like that,” says the Chennai-based playwright. For the premiere, the cast was different and included mainly British kids of Asian origin.
Chandrasekhar became associated with British theatre around 12 years back through a workshop held by the British Council. She went on to do a residency programme at the Royal Court Theatre. She was also part of the first Writer’s Bloc and she wrote the play, Acid, as part of it. But this is the first time she has worked on a children’s play. “I met Karl Miller, a children’s writer, at a theatre workshop and we started talking about children’s plays. When we spoke about The Snow Queen, I told him this is an epic journey that can be set in India as well. That’s how it started,” shares Chandrasekhar.
So, how difficult was it to write an Indian adaptation of such a popular play? “This story has a lot of layers to it. I had to find parallels between India and Andersen’s Europe. The story travels through seasons and has characters, which are representatives of that season. There is a spring witch, a summer princess and a snow queen. I was inspired by the colours associated with these seasons — I related the lushness of vegetation of spring to the Kerala backwaters, the golden colour of summer to the glamour of Bollywood and the land of the Snow Queen is a mythical land in the Himalayas,” explains Chandrasekhar.
Based in Chennai, she shared several emails with the director Rosamunde Hutt to give her a clear picture of what she was trying to convey. “I also made a few trips to London before the premiere,” she shares.
Talking about the experience of writing her first children’s play, she says “I had a blast. There is so much to learn in this genre; there is so much to learn from children. I am surely going to do this again,” she adds.
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