Theatre festival in Mumbai uses shadow puppets to tell stories

Dec 05, 2017, 09:40 IST | Krutika Behrawala

A theatre festival for young audiences flies down a French company that uses shadow, puppets and objects to tell stories including a modern-day version of Sleeping Beauty

In pitch darkness, Colette Garrigan sets up vertical forks and sugar cubes on a table placed on stage. As the light reflects on them, their shadows assume giant forms on the backdrop. The forks resemble a dark forest while the cubes symbolise winterlands. In the next 55 minutes, the artiste uses many such objects to tell the story of Sleeping Beauty, but not as you may know her in Briar Rose's classic fairytale.

Glimpses from Grandfather's House
Glimpses from Grandfather's House

In this contemporary adaptation, the princess is born in the suburbs of Liverpool, devastated by unemployment and famine. The spindles are replaced by needles as Garrigan tackles themes like drug abuse and delinquency in a performance tailored for teenagers. This Friday, catch the play as part of TIFLI, an international theatre festival for children and young audiences presented by Assitej India. In its fourth year, the multi-city fest has previously roped in international teams from Denmark, Italy, South Korea and Mexico.

For this edition, they've flown down four members of Cie Akselere, a theatre company from France, founded by Garrigan in 1999. The England-born artiste is a qualified Montessori teacher and seasoned puppeteer. Her works are also known for the use of shadow and object theatre. "I discovered shadow theatre in 1990, when I visited France for studies. These forms help me tell hard-hitting stories with a message. It's also easier to get the attention of both children and adults, vis-a-vis a play that would only have me acting in it," says Garrigan over a call, having wrapped up the first show in Delhi. The Mumbai edition will also witness the company's other production, Grandfather's House, a 45-minute non-verbal performance that features puppets apart from shadow and object theatre, making it suitable for five-year-olds too.

Inspired by Russian-French artist Marc Chagall's paintings such as The Grandfather Clock With Blue Wing, the play revolves around an old grandfather clock that comes alive and invites the audience to go back in time. For this performance, the guests will be seated closer to the stage, as in a circus ring, taking a leaf out of Chagall's paintings with circus artistes.

Colette Garrigan uses objects like forks in Sleeping Beauty
Colette Garrigan uses objects like forks in Sleeping Beauty

Garrigan also uses characters from Chagall's artworks in the play. For instance, a goat playing the violin or cello in his paintings is created on stage using shadows. "The clock forms the main character. Colette also evokes nostalgia by sharing her own memories of her grandfather through the performance," informs festival director Imran Khan, who visited various theatre festivals in France to zero in on the right fit for the fest. The morning shows are reserved for schools and non-profits.

ON: December 7, 10 am, 12 pm, 6.30 pm (Grandfather's House); December 8, 10 am and 12 pm (Sleeping Beauty)
AT: G5A, Laxmi Mills Compound, Shakti Mills Lane, Mahalaxmi.
EMAIL: tiflimumbai@gmail.com

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