Swiss artiste tells children story of the adult world

Performance for kids aged 5 to 15 dwells on harsh truths of life

By Chandreyee Ghose in Calcutta
  • Published 9.04.18
A scene from Peter Rinderknecht’s Minor Matters at Kolkata Centre for Creativity. Picture by Mayukh Sengupta

Calcutta: This storyteller gave kids a reality check. He used action, interaction, props and even music to tell a story about separation, over-expectation, bitterness, loss and all that can go wrong in an adult world. For, he believes kids are emotionally strong and should be educated about harsh truths too.

On his first visit to Calcutta, Swiss performing artiste Peter Rinderknecht presented Minor Matters for over 60 kids and their parents, in association with ThinkArts and supported by Pro Helvetika Swiss Arts Council.

Students from various city schools aged five to 15 trooped into a dimly lit room at Kolkata Centre for Creativity in Anandapur, to be greeted by a homeless man sleeping on the floor. That's how Rinderknecht began his story about a man who led a happy and peaceful life on his farm till he got married and decided to add on to his family. Having three children meant expectations of a good life for them.

"They bought a grand horse for the kids to learn riding on. They also bought a grand piano..." said Rinderknecht about the farmer and his wife. Rinderknecht also asked the kids to suggest things the farmer's family would need to lead a "comfortable life".

Prompt came the responses - TV, car, washing machine.

"I have performed this story in so many places - Germany, Mexico, Korea, Norway. The expectations of kids everywhere are similar. They come up with so many suggestions of materialistic goods. But they must also know how expensive their demands sometimes are and how hard parents have to work to meet them," Rinderknecht said.

Providing luxuries cost the farmer dear in Rinderknecht's story. The storyteller used dramatic gestures to explain to kids how a happy marriage can break as adults run after material goods and lofty expectations.

The story ended on a poignant note with the farmer losing his family, farm and happiness to a life on the street. "My performance is about how a situation can change in a second. Happiness can be transient yet my tale ends with hope," Rinderknecht said.

The artiste who travels the world with over seven stories hoped that his performance would make his audience go back home and think. "It touches on loneliness, over-indulgence and some problems of modern life. There is misery everywhere and I find kids' reaction to my story very similar," said the artiste, who was back in India after a decade, this time with a true story.

A sombre silence greeted the last scene of the act. Anushree Agarwal, a Class VI student of Mangalam Vidya Niketan, admitted she had seen nothing quite like it. "I have never heard a story like this. But I enjoyed his acting the most," she said, echoing the feelings of most of the audience.

"I wish the story had a happy ending," added Bihan Mukherjee, a Class III student of DPS Ruby Park.

The artiste hopes to soak in the flavours of the city in between storytelling sessions and workshops. "I am enjoying it here in Calcutta," he said.