Down the rabbit hole

Updated: May 31, 2019, 07:30 IST | Snigdha Hasan

An interactive performance of Alice in Wonderland weaves together theatrical pieces, artworks, music and food inspired by the Lewis Carroll classic

Down the rabbit hole
The actors rehearse a scene from A Mad Tea Party. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar

Why is a raven like a writing desk?" "Time is a 'him' not an 'it'." Looking for logic in these utterances will do no good to the seeker. And yet, these and many more of Lewis Carroll's gems in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland have been loved by children and adults alike for over 150 years.

Akshat Nigam sums up the classic — considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre — aptly when he says, "When you experience an absurd little wonderland, you let go of the pressures of meaning." This bizarre wonderland is what the educator and storyteller hopes to create with Ragini Singh Khushwaha, programme head at Drama School Mumbai, at A Mad Tea Party.

Himanshu Singh, Ragini Singh Khushwaha and Akshat Nigam
Himanshu Singh, Ragini Singh Khushwaha and Akshat Nigam

Inspired by Alice in Wonderland, the event will be held at a Bandra venue, which, with its tiny staircase, secretive loft and rafters, lends itself perfectly to the set-up, says Nigam. The participants will be taken on an immersive journey where they will witness scenes from the novel, through a combined exhibition of photography and music by Raj Lalwani and Ronojoy Sircar, site-specific artwork created for the event by Illesha Khandelwal and Ayesha Kapadia, an improvised soundscape by Sid Vetekar and to tie the tea party together, a "mad meal" curated by chef Gresham Fernandes. "It's very much down the rabbit hole," says Khushwaha.

This is the first performance by Artnowthus, a theatre company that's been in the works for a while, but was formalised by the duo earlier this month. "Artnowthus is our way of making theatre more accessible and relatable to audiences.

Props to be used for the performance
Props to be used for the performance

While what was once counted among the fringe arts, such as stand-up comedy, has gained in popularity, it is difficult to find new audiences for theatre. We did a little survey and realised that the peril of not understanding what transpires on stage can alienate people," Khushwaha shares. "We wanted to change that without dumbing down the content. And Alice in Wonderland is so well-loved."

For this medley of visual arts, music, theatre and food, the duo brought together like-minded artistes with the long-term goal of providing a platform where they can showcase standalone work without the pressure of having to put together a full-fledged exhibition or show.

Down the rabbit hole
Down the rabbit hole

Khandelwal, who has created giant tapestries featuring crows, tells us, "My idea was to envision a wonderland in Mumbai and create connections. So, the ubiquitous Mumbai crow blended in well, when you think of the raven and the writing desk," she informs. With props and costumes designed by Kapadia, the participants will spot references to the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts. "But there will also be moments of quiet and lull, where they will walk around and figure things out for themselves," Khushwaha points out. "And in that way, it will be an evening unique to every participant."

On June 1 and 2, 6.30 pm to 8.30 pm
At Bandra West (exact location to be disclosed upon registration; limited seats).
Email artnowthus@gmail.com
Log on to tinyurl.com/y4paloxl
Entry Rs 1,100

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