New Christmas play offers four contemporary stories in a unique way

Updated: 19 December, 2017 09:37 IST | Snigdha Hasan | Mumbai

A grand costume drama brings the spirit of the season to stage and shares it with the audience through a unique ticketing system

There's something about Christmas that shuns solitude; its infectious spirit touching more lives as the day draws near. In time for the festive season that celebrates munificence and its true spirit of joy and love is Christmas in the Woods, a new play that presents four contemporary stories that unfold in the backdrop of the Nativity.

A rehearsal in progress; writer-director Omkar Bhatkar (second from left) plays one of the elves
A rehearsal in progress; writer-director Omkar Bhatkar (second from left) plays one of the elves

"I grew up watching Nativity plays, but they are not staged as often anymore. And when they are, they are a truncated version of no more than 20 minutes," says theatre director and writer Omkar Bhatkar, who decided to make the play a visual treat with 25 actors in elaborate costumes, five musicians and eight vocalists presenting carols in Russian, Spanish, Greek, Latin and English. "The parallel stories are set in different geographies, and the audience will get a sense of where they are situated through the costumes and music, without a specific country being mentioned," shares Bhatkar, adding that the stories are narrated by four elves, each a specific type and from a different literary lineage. "The Shakespearean elf, for instance, is the mischievous kind while the Tolkien elf is intelligent," he says. The overarching theme remains that of finding joy within oneself. "Through the play, we want to send out the message that pain in life doesn't need an external cure. It can be overcome with the love and joy within you," says Bhatkar.

Christmas cheer

Keeping up with the contemporary-classical theme of the play is the instrumentation, which uses the guitar, bass, violin, cello, keyboards and even the cajon. "Christmas music is typically mellow. Making sure that we don't sway from its essence, we have added percussion to the music through the cajon, by using it in a refrained manner," says Jason Fernandes, who has created the play's music, adding that getting the pronunciation of the different languages right was another area the vocalists took great care about.

The play features carols in Russian, Greek, Spanish, Latin and English
The play features carols in Russian, Greek, Spanish, Latin and English

The spirit of Christmas, however, doesn't end on stage. The play, under the aegis of The Yellow Santa Project of St Andrew's Institution, comes with a unique ticketing system. It invites audience members to get a new gift (medical boxes, stationery, art material, story books, toys, etc) for underprivileged children, submit it to the organisers at the venue and get a ticket for the play in exchange. "Those who don't find the time to get a gift can buy tickets worth Rs 200, proceeds from which will go towards buying gifts for kids," informs Bhatkar. "We decided to just go ahead with our faith. People are often more generous than we think they are."

ON: December 21, 7 pm (entry starts at 6 pm on a first-come-first-served basis)
AT: St Andrew's Auditorium, 55, Saint Domnic Road, Bandra West.
LOG ON TO: (for tickets)

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First Published: 19 December, 2017 09:35 IST

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