These clowns are serious

These days, theatre director Joy Fernandes often shuts himself with his troupe and just clowns around. And he wants to be taken seriously, but not too seriously.

Fernandes’ new play for children, Clowns@Play will be on stage at the NCPA this Friday, May 17. Heavy doses of laughter, says Fernandes, will have embedded discussions on social issues-without getting didactic about them.

“There’s no better way to introduce children to social menaces such as spitting, littering, air and noise pollution, than having fun with them. The Grips theatre in Germany does these things beautifully, wherein adults play children and speak about relevant issues. There was The Boy Who Stopped Smiling, which dealt with the life and trials of a child prodigy and one which was about a child who suffered from Spina Bifida. I was really inspired by the idea and decided to do something on the same lines.”

Fernandes is fully aware of the status clowns enjoy in India, or rather, the lack of it. Circuses are disappearing and so is the humour only clowns could pull off. “Unfortunately, clowns are considered quite low brow by people, but bring a clown into a room full of children and the decibel level will never be the same there,” smiles Fernandes. That, he adds, is what prompted him to bring clowns into his play-they are “wonderful and the closest one can be to being a child.”

Children, says Fernandes, are curious by nature and want to know about anything and everything, if you can plate it well, and the list includes civic and social issues too. In Clowns@Play, the children are asked by their parents to drop their Wii and Xboxes and play outside. This brings the dilemma of not having open spaces or parks to play. The children bump into this group of clowns who promise to create a land where they’ll have all the space they need.

In come clowns who are spitters, those who litter, make too much noise and so on. The characters then go on to tackle these social and civic issues humouroursly. “Not once will the children feel that we are telling them what to do, and neither are we telling parents how they could raise their kids better. It is all done through the clowns and the children in the play themselves.” The play, he adds, has some good original songs composed by Willie and Ronald, which even touch upon ideas of sharing and ambition. The play also has parodies of some songs.

Fernandes says clowns will be a recurring motif in his future work, too. “In India, when we think clowns, we think juggling and then, perhaps, of Raj Kapoor in Mera Naam Joker and his rendition of the form. But there’s much more to do there-all clowns needn’t be the same bumbling characters, they can deliver much better humour by having a personality of their own. Also, humour through clowning need not be one-dimensional and all about physical discomfort. Clowns can have one hell of a backbone and can be witty and smart, too, and that’s what I want to show through this play.”

When: May 17, 6.30 am
Where: NCPA, NCPA Marg,
Nariman Point
Call: 22824567 

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