Saunter into the fabled world

Crea Play in collaboration with Lil Trails organised an interactive theatre performance called ‘Pandi the Indie’.
The interactive theater performance.
The interactive theater performance.

CHENNAI : Knowing no bounds of imagination, kids of ages five to 10 gathered with their parents on Sunday at Lil Trails, Adyar, to watch, learn, and participate. These tiny tots were seated on a small bench in a well-lit room with walls doodled with animal figures, tapping their eager little feet in anticipation for a symphony of storytelling and immersive theatre, an artistic blend of creativity and social messaging.

Crea Play in collaboration with Lil Trails organised an interactive theatre performance called ‘Pandi the Indie’. Set against the backdrop of Pandi’s (a street dog) aspirations to become a champion at the local dog show, the story explores the themes of destiny, belief, and self-discovery. “Destiny! Something that’s meant to be! Destiny! Where we’re supposed to be!” echoed the words of Pandi on the stage as the children cheered.

The play is written and directed by Dushyanth Gunashekar, co-founder, Crea-Play. Kavyashree, the co-director, said, “As a theatre company, Crea is focused on imbibing a message to children by getting them to engage in the play. We don’t want it to be very didactic. In a way of encouraging them to participate, they also get involved in the story.” They use ‘fables’ as a genre to convey important social messages.

When asked what was the inspiration behind telling the story through the perspective of a dog, Dushyanth, the creative genius behind the play said, “I think it’s a character we see and interact with everyday but not represented accurately. I love dogs and I grew up with dogs — and during the pandemic, I used to go for walks with some ‘Pandis’ in the neighbourhood and the story sort of came to me.”

Actors Yugesh, Mariam, and Georgie donned their roles as Pandi the Indie, Meenakshi the cat, and Rambo the ex police dog, respectively, with humour and pathos. “As an actor, I feel that interactivity is the element that distinguishes this from a traditional play and that’s what draws me and the audience to it,” said Yugesh. He added that Pandi as a character is inspiring to children to follow their own destiny.

Meenakshi’s soliloquy, expressed poignantly by Mariam, showed the kids the beautiful feeling of trust and pure-heartedness. Rambo’s monologue about raising his bars instilled the importance of setting and achieving a goal.

Assistant director Georgie, introduced ‘cuts’ in the play where the children were expected to interact with the story. One of the cut scenes featured the little ones participating as dogs in a show where they followed the command by sitting, jumping, and shaking hands. “My favourite part of the show was when we went on the stage and jumped like a dog,” said little Yugan. The children were enthusiastic to give their inputs during the cut scenes. When Pandi, Meenakshi, and Rambo asked the kids during a song about the first time they started to believe in their abilities, Aegan, another kid, said that he loved cricket and he realised his abilities in 2023. The young ones sharing their belief in themselves inspired Pandi to achieve his destiny.

The play filled the little hearts with glee and brought out the inner child of the adults. “We loved it, it was a story with just three characters which was effectively told and it had a lesson at the end. The interactivity of the play made it a unique experience for the kids as well as the parents watching it,” said Nikita, Yugan’s mom.

She added that she enjoyed seeing her son being outgoing and self-assured during the interactions in the play. Another parent Gayathri believed that using animals as the characters made the story more likeable and relatable. The children waved goodbye to the crew and left the venue with lifted spirits.

The play is set to return to the stage at IDAM, Kodambakkam on May 18.

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The New Indian Express