An evergreen tale with a new twist

A 30-minute trance as you enter one black box after another! This rendition of Hansel and Gretel by Swiss theatre company Trickster is a journey to the fairy tale and back through installations, visual art and sheer poetry that leave you soul- searching.

By Chandreyee Ghose
  • Published 10.02.16
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An introspection room that was part of the Hansel and Gretel visual art installation

A 30-minute trance as you enter one black box after another! This rendition of Hansel and Gretel by Swiss theatre company Trickster is a journey to the fairy tale and back through installations, visual art and sheer poetry that leave you soul- searching.

For physical theatre artistes Cristina Galbiati and Ilija Luginbuhl, this is their first project sans actors, created in 2009. Since then, they have held over 200 shows all over Europe and America. The city got a peek into the multi-layered presentation, thanks to Think Arts in association with the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet and Pro Helvetia Swiss Arts Council. Shows were held at South City International School every day from January 23 to 27, open to anyone above 12 years.

Why Hansel and Gretel?  “Because it is a cruel fairy tale. Our piece makes people come out with personal associations. We are just making them go through an experience, at times an intense and private one,” Cristina said.

And when the experiences are so personal, the journey should be taken alone. That is what the artistes believe too. Only one person can get inside the world of Hansel and Gretel at a time, with an auditory guide and a torch guiding him or her through the darkness. Dark corridors, scent of cinnamon, pieces of bones, laughter of kids, make-belief forests, voice of the storyteller, gurgling sound of water and the whisper of silence … the effect is enough to spook you out and at the same time melt your heart. “We try to create a dreamlike ambience. In a way, the audience becomes the authors to this tale with an open ending,” Cristina said.

The witch is depicted through the image of a pair of ugly feet. At one point, the audience is left alone in an empty bird cage, amid the sound of a knife sharpening and a roomful of bones. “We have had exclusive shows for kids. They were a great audience, patiently waiting for their friends to finish their turn. An interval of three minutes is maintained between every viewer,” said Ruchira Das of Think Arts.

For Sara Muthedath, a Class VIII student of Calcutta International School, it was a first-of-its-kind experience. “I was told to enter this dark zone all alone… and that got me scared. But as I made the journey I felt so enriched. The best part of the whole experience was how we interpreted the story. The next day I was busy recommending it to all my friends,” said the 14-year-old, still gushing about her visual journey.   

The artistes were charmed that the installations were treated so well by the audience. “There was no glue used and the material was so fragile. Yet everything was in place every day,” laughed Cristina. The show has been adapted in nine languages. The Trickster artistes are next working on another installation presentation without actors on the phenomenon of twilight.