The actors were given the script in bits and pieces and more often they were given situations related to the play that they had to enact using their own creativity and instincts. At first the actors were not sure about the process and where it would lead them, but they kept faith and participated with an enthusiasm that has helped give the performance the energy that it requires.
The treatment of the play has been done in a manner that relates it to ‘role play’ and ‘story-telling’ done by small children at home and in school. The situations in the play are also written and directed based on story-telling done by children, the elements they focus on and how they jump from one sequence to another, highlighting the parts they like, even though the story telling needs them to explain things that can be understood by all. So the story telling is focussed on the story teller’s whims and fancies and the audience has to fill in the gaps and bits using their common sense and imagination.
We have used shadow play to create an image of the unknown spaceship and this keeps the ambiguity of the situation quite alive. The actions of the actors are based on actions done by children during the shadow play session of our theatre workshop.
The narrative does not necessarily follow a logical graph as understood by adults, but instead follows a fuzzy logic that is typical of children’s writing. So things happen because the children want their story to move in a particular direction, even if the sequence does not fit into the typical logic of stories. And as the story is a fantasy narrative, everything is accepted by the audience!
We have also used stylised dance and movement in some sequences to create a sense of wonder and excitement. I also wanted some portions of the play that do not use verbal expression and that is why two long sequences are choreographed with music and no dialogues. The music has been especially composed with a focus on highlighting instruments and their pure sounds, like the violin, flute, guitar and tabla. Each instrument has been used to denote an action or an experience and we have moved away from electronic sounds as much as possible.
The production design follows the play aspect of children and so most of the props are made from toys and everyday objects that children use during their ‘play’, substituting these objects as things they may or may not be. The stage design is kept simple and flexible and there is no effort to make anything realistic. The spaces are defined by the lighting design, the dialogues and a few props specific to each space. The costumes are kept simple and almost such that children could just pick up stuff around the house and create these by themselves.
I have attempted to use a concept written by children as the starting point and then used two levels of treatment. One in which actors enact the way children would dramatise situations, while the other is a stylisation that is more adult in its direction. Through the play these two levels are interwoven to narrate the story in a manner that children can easily relate to and yet punched with sequences designed to thrill the audience.
The aim has been to perform the play in a manner that does not create a spectacle to overwhelm the children in the audience or to hide the magic behind things, but to do things in a manner that excites their imagination and makes them feel that they can also indulge in similar creative play in their own surroundings with their own everyday objects!