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FRIENDSHIP AND VIOLENCE

Some exceptional work in youth theatre goes unnoticed by the general public, who wrongly believe that young people cannot possibly deliver adultworthy performances. The South Point musical, Pihsdneirf, at the school’s diamond jubilee celebrations, proved the point. Its simultaneously inspirational and spectacular impact could have vied with that of any big-banner production. An entirely original concept of Sumit Lai Roy, it depicted life on earth as drudgery, caused by school pressure on children, no face-to-face communication, obsessive workaholism and ecological disaster. The happy creatures of another planet decide to transform this bleak scenario with their own motto, pihsdneirf (readers can decrypt this themselves). The title song in their apparently unintelligible language, their charming joined-at-the-shoulders dances, their imaginatively colourful costumes and makeup (picture) exhibited the collective talent and creative artistry in the school. In a neat way to rope in the senior classes and double the personnel, the aliens return after several years when everyone has grown up! Katy Lai Roy directed the huge numbers with extraordinary discipline and Subhagata Singha’s score was foot-tappingly catchy. The kids moved all with their warm message to humanity of friendship.

Hope Kolkata Foundation started theatre sessions for its girl students conducted by Jadavpur University undergraduates Sunandita Ghosh and Rrivu Banerjee, culminating in the show The Great Indian Fairy Tale. Coming from disadvantaged sections, the performers impressed with their uninhibitedness, dancing skills and spoken English. Methodologically, however, I disagree with Ghosh and Banerjee on three counts: why should their protégés have to present a Western rather than indigenous fairy tale; why must the princess have a royal rather than commoner’s background; and why should the girls reproduce Hindi-film dances (which they know by heart in their real lives anyway) instead of learning new choreography? Nevertheless, one looks forward to this venture continuing, taking the pupils to greater artistic attainments.

The fairly well-established Lok draws a large, loyal audience from its own generation. It staged an original by Aditya Sengupta, The Stone Age, in which a youth travels to New York on a vacation and finds five of his friends “embroiled in a haze of drugs, violence, hatred, racism and sadness”. The picture was just too one-sidedly despairing to be credible, leading one to wonder whether Sengupta has an anti-American prejudice. Would-be playwrights need to read more of superior contemporary drama to learn how to write subtly. A battery of technological resources cannot compensate.