Le Chayim’s latest production, In the Cat House, is about a 10-year-old boy Vikash (Abhishek Saha) who thinks that children are stupid and has major problems befriending kids from his class. All this changes when a magical cat (Prerna Chawla) enters his room one night.
Says Siddharth Kumar, the writer of the play, “Director Sananda Mukhopadhyaya and I wanted to depict the relationship between a boy and a cat. The fantasy element of the cat is a comment on how kids are hooked on to video games, rather than playing outdoors, because it’s far more gratifying for them. Vikash, too, doesn’t feel the need to have friends because he has a magical cat.”
The cat however is not friendly and scratches him the first time, which no one is ready to believe. Slowly, with the help of his cat-loving classmate Alvia (Shweta Tripathi), Vikash manages to befriend the cat. Together, they pull tricks on people that Vikash isn’t particularly fond of but in the process, he ends up making friends instead.
“It was a conscious decision to choose adults for this play. If we would have had child actors, I would have preferred the form of a devised play, where kids could create the story on their own. In this way, they have a sort of ownership to the play. Also it’s an outsider’s perspective of the children’s world,” explains first-time director Mukhopadhyaya, who is also a drama teacher for kids.
While directing the play, Mukhopadhyaya and the cast took inspiration from their own childhood, the kids they grew up with and the kids they know now. “The protagonist isn’t a superhero; he is a regular child who faces simple problems such as a difficulty in socialising and he can also be cruel and mean. We have even left the cat’s interpretation to the audience. You don’t really know if it’s a magical cat or simply Vikash’s imagination,” says the director.
In the play, all the characters are played by adults. Hence, the actors had to try to make their acting look childlike but not childish. “When you are portraying a child, usually people end up hamming. But you don’t need to play stupid. Also, my body is a lot slower than that of a kid, so I had to work on my body language,” says Saha, who is actually a 27-year-old.
Since the play explores the relationship between a human and a cat (both the writer and director are cat lovers), after a few rehearsals, Saha started believing that he was acting with a cat.
Kumar wrote the character of Saha as a mean kid because he felt that children don’t really know the difference between being cruel and nice. In the play, the transformation of Vikash is shown when he realises the consequences of his actions and the harsh words he uses.