Child's play in land of wood

Ujaan Chatterjee, all of two, found himself dancing to the sound of wood clacking and drumbeats - an uncommon symphony in an urban setting - on Saturday afternoon.

By Chandreyee Ghose
  • Published 7.11.17
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Children take over the stage covered in wood shavings. Picture by Koushik Saha

Syed Amir Ali Avenue: Ujaan Chatterjee, all of two, found himself dancing to the sound of wood clacking and drumbeats - an uncommon symphony in an urban setting - on Saturday afternoon.

Giving him company were wooden puppets that told their own story through funny gestures. Ujaan and around 150 children aged 2 to 10 couldn't stop laughing though they did not understand the language of the wooden creatures.

German puppeteer Michael Lurse and percussionist Marko Werner of Helios Theatre took the children on a journey to the world of wood, music and tales through their presentation Woodbeat, held in association with ThinkArts, at Modern High School for Girls on Saturday.

Wooden stumps and pieces of different shapes and sizes greeted the children as they were escorted into the auditorium by performer Lurse and Werner. The stage, too, was covered in wood shavings.

With Werner taking turns to play a drum, chime and other instruments, a world of wooden puppets and tales exploded before the children.

"This production was conceived in 2008 and since then we have travelled the world and performed over 350 times. It is a two-layered production that both children and adults enjoy equally," Lurse said.

The first layer of the play directed by Barbara Kolling is all about sound and music and meant to connect with kids. "The second layer is philosophical. It makes us appreciate wood and mourn its loss. It also talks about the transience of life," Lurse said.

The artistes' presentation may vary for an adult audience but the script remains the same for all. "We rehearse for eight weeks before a show," said Lurse who is on his second tour to India, having performed in Bangalore, Mumbai and Chennai this time.

The play ended with the children being invited to walk down a path shovelled out of a carpet of wood shavings. Advika Bhattacharya, 4, of The New Town School thanked the artistes for all the fun. Adrija Sen, 5, of Modern High School followed, saying it with a hug.

The performers have decided to leave a parting gift. "We are training some Indian artistes to develop the script and perform. This way Woodbeat can live on even after we leave," said Lurse after the 35-minute performance.

Indian artistes Sanjukta Saha and Rajat Mallik are taking the play to various schools. "Working with wood has its own rhythm and life and is not easy. This is a multi-faceted play involving puppetry, wood chopping and interesting movements. It is a huge challenge for us to replicate the same," Saha said.