“It happens all over the world,” says the director of Boy With a Suitcase, Andrea Gronemeyer, about displacement or “migration due to need, greed, or in search of a better lifestyle.” “There are several vacuums where the audience can insert their own stories or experiences,” adds the German theatre director, who is currently in Pune rehearsing for the play, which debuts in Mumbai tomorrow.
Boy With a Suitcase travelled to Bangalore, last year, post its premiere in the German city of Manheim. The production is part of the ongoing 60th anniversary celebrations of Indo-German ties, Germany and India 2011-2012: Infinite Opportunities, and is a joint collaboration between Bangalore’s Ranga Shankara and the Schnawwl Theatre in Mannheim.
Playwright Mike Kenny found inspiration in the lives of the children of Afghanistan, who were displaced as a consequence of war. “He wanted to tell the stories of the many children who are fugitives in the world; who leave their homes in search of a better life,” says Andrea, adding that Kenny first narrated the story to her in 2009.
The play tells the story of Naz, a young boy, whose parents put him on a bus to go in search of his sister and a better living. On his journey, he meets a young girl. “He narrates several stories along the way; stories he has been told by his mother,” says Andrea, adding, “The stories provide inspiration and add fun to their journey.”
When Naz finally reaches his destination, he is disheartened to find his suitcase empty. That’s when the girl reassures him that all is not lost and, on the contrary, he is rich as he has his stories. “Even if we lose everything, we still have the wealth of our cultural heritage. We have the wealth of our values, beliefs and faith,” says Andrea, elaborating on the play’s message.
The play marks the first time that the 50-year-old director has worked with Indian actors. When asked to comment on the experience, she says, “Indian theatre deals with a lot of music and dance, while German theatre is more rooted in literature.”
Andrea adds that despite differences in the approach to the craft, it was a “beautiful experience.” “The only difficulty was making each other understand.”