What do you get when you throw in clowns, puppets, shadow theatre, pantomime and masked theatre into one tight hour? A ‘free’ adaptation of a tale as old as time - ‘Sleeping Beauty’.
Titled ‘Once Upon A Time’, this children and family show was presented by Alliance Francaise, Trivandrum on Friday here.
The story is well-known, as are the characters. A childless king and queen of a kingdom far, far away yearn for a child. A magical frog, who by the way does not turn into a prince if anyone kisses him, tells the desolate queen she will soon be blessed with a daughter. The prophecy comes true, a party is thrown, an evil witch does not get an invite, she curses the child with a short life, another ‘lessens’ the impact of the curse by just making her sleep for a hundred years, the child grows, pricks finger on her 15th birthday, falls asleep and so does the kingdom. The handsome prince arrives after a hundred years, fights and kills the witch, kisses the beauty, wins her hand, and they live happily ever after.
The element of novelty in the show comes from the variety of theatre forms that are used to tell the story. Shadow theatre is used at the beginning and end to tell the background story of the childless royal couple and the wedding of the prince and princess. Puppetry is part of the show as well - with some of the characters, such as the narrator and the sidekicks (monsters and pets), being puppets.
The Italian theatre form, Commedia dell’Arte, is part of the mélange with the prince, witch and fairies all donning masks characteristic to it.
“It is a mix of Kerala and Europe,” said Alliance Francaise Director Alice Gauny while introducing the play. And indeed it was – guests to the party included cousins from Kottayam and Luxembourg; Princess Aurora’s reaction when she pricks her finger was ‘Ayyo’; the final fight between the witch and Prince Charming was not just a clash of broadswords, but saw some Kalaripayattu action as well.
The 14-odd characters in the show including the puppets, were handled by just two actors - Françoise Calvel and Abhija Sivakala. The former, trained in drama at the Conservatory of Strasbourg, TJP and A. R.T.U.S. (university troupe), is a French comedian who works with masked theatre and children’s theatre among others. Sivakala is a graduate of College of Fine Arts, Thiruvananthapuram and has worked with Chilean director Elias Cohen in several projects including “Las Indias”, a multicultural community theatre project. Both belong to the Indian company, Layam Cultural Events and Training Pvt Ltd.