Clowning around to Korean creativity

Giving an opportunity for city’s children to witness world-class theatre in the form of a musical, and a non-verbal play, The Little Theatre is back with the 13th edition of The Little Festival
The play is for children above five years of age and adults. The theatre also presents a non-verbal Korean production, A Tree and a Boy by the Befu company, South Korea.
The play is for children above five years of age and adults. The theatre also presents a non-verbal Korean production, A Tree and a Boy by the Befu company, South Korea.

CHENNAI: Hanging on the brink of a frying pan is the fate of the world. A peculiar group of cooks now have to bring in a miraculous recipe to stave off the looming apocalypse. Their journey spans beyond the conventional realms, venturing into mystical worlds and alternate dimensions where otherworldly ingredients await discovery. With each step, they face the relentless tick of the clock, racing against time itself. Amid the chaos of stirring cauldrons and bubbling concoctions, a question lingers: can this team of cooks come up with the recipe?

The stage is set, and the ovens are fired up. The Little Theatre, Chennai urges us to step inside and witness this uproarious spectacle unfold as they present the one hour and 15 minutes-long musical The Kooks: Sunny Side Up at The Little Festival. The play is for children above five years of age and adults. The theatre also presents a non-verbal Korean production, A Tree and a Boy by the Befu company, South Korea. This 50-minute long play is for ages four years and above.

The festival was started in 2010 and this year marks its 13th edition with a pause during the two years of the pandemic. After more than a decade of conducting the festival and bringing world-class theatre production to Chennai, Aysha Rau, founder and managing trustee of The Little Theater, reflects on the aim of the festival.

She says, “Not every child can fly out and see theatre shows in other countries when they want to. So we wanted to conduct a festival where children can understand different cultures through theatre. Regardless of where the artistes or the stories come from, ultimately theatre speaks the same language. Our Children need to be given a chance to see quality theatre productions and appreciate that. It will also make them understand each other despite their differences. In a larger sense, we aim to bring peace. There are already a lot of wars and violence, be it in Gaza or all around the world. I think we should introduce the young generation to art so that they will appreciate different people through it.” It is with this thought that the team of The Little Theatre want the children of Chennai from across schools and age groups to attend The Little Festival.

Cultural connections

The theatre team is renowned for starting India’s first Hospital Clown Group where they visit government hospitals and extend support to the patients through their art. The Kooks: Sunny Side Up is also a play including clowns. Describing the play, Krishnakumar Balasubramanian (KK), artistic director of The Little Theatre says, “Usually when people hear about clowning, they have preconceived notions about it. We wanted to create a show that breaks the idea of what people think clowning is. It is not just putting on a mask and, and acting goofy. It also has a philosophy. Clowning takes you back to your inner child. Actors like Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Rowan Atkinson, and Sacha Baron Cohen are students of clowning.”

The production, created by KK, is being staged for the second year. This time, it is being directed by M Santhosh Kumar. Explaining the challenges of directing a clown play Santhosh says, “In most other plays, there will be mostly dialogues and emotions and it is very easy to convey emotions with dialogues. But in a clown play, the maximum, even if you crunch the entire script of this play, is just about two pages. Conveying emotions without using dialogue is the toughest part.”

On the other hand, A Tree and a Boy blooms in the backdrop of Korean aesthetics, weaving a tale where the lives of a tree and a boy intertwine across the seasons — from the awakening of spring through the stillness of winter and back to the rebirth of spring. Rathi Jafer, director, Inko Centre Chennai, says, “It unfolds themes of nature, portraying birth, growth, decay, death, and renewal. It underlines the relationship between man and nature and is done in a very visual way. We hope it will be something interesting for Chennaiites to watch.”

Need for support

Emphasising that one of the important factors of human civilisation was the knowledge transfer that happened between different cultures and looking into the theatre with a more welcoming attitude is much necessary, KK says, “Artistes are putting their hearts and souls into creating something incredible. People want a cultural influence but aren’t willing to pay for it. It is high time we support our local artistes.”

Concurring, Aysha says, “For 12 years, I maintained the price of the tickets at Rs 200. Since November last year, we increased it to Rs 400 for schools because it’s impossible to put the whole festival together at such a low cost. Everything has gone up in price, be it the renovation of the Museum Theatre, or light and sound arrangements. Schools like Chennai Public School, Padma Seshadri Bala Bhavan, Abacus Montessori School, Hindustan International School, Bhavan’s Rajaji Vidyashram, and Prasan Vidya Mandir have welcomed us. I hope more schools understand the need for children to watch good theatre.”

Inviting all the schools to support them in their vision of bringing class acts to our children, Aysha says, “We don’t know if we will be able to bring out a show next year if we do not receive support from more schools this time.”

The Little Festival will be held from July 5-10 at The Museum Theatre, Egmore. Donor passes: Rs 400.

To book, visit: https://thelittletheatre.explara.com/events. For bulk bookings schools can contact: 9840044983

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