Devising fun

By Adilah Ismail

The living room is brimming with little people of all shapes and sizes. A gangster sits on the floor caressing his gun - hat perched jauntily on his head, while a girl clad in sari gesticulates to a friend. A group of singers in sequinned tops, along with a gaggle of police men patrol the French windows and await our arrival.

And this is a glimpse of what can be expected if you make your way to the Punchi Theatre when ‘Kids at Play’ present their three plays on October 15 – 18 at 7p.m.

The three plays to go on board are Rags to Riches, The Monkey Man and Riches to Rags. What sets this production apart from others is that it is in the form of devised theatre.

Essentially being a form of theatre without a written script, instead it’s based on a collection of ideas from a group of people, giving them the space and capacity to imagine, express themselves and unleash their creativity, which is otherwise stifled. “They’re extremely enthusiastic. I think it’s coming along very nicely,” voiced Prof. Neluka Silva, Founder and Director of ‘Kids at Play.’

The cast, who vociferously agreed that the experience had been fun and exciting, said that they were looking forward to the production. “Everybody’s having fun. It’s a chance to make new friends and meet people you wouldn’t normally meet,” smiled Nimaya Harris.

The Monkey Man is an adaptation of one of Prof. Neluka’s short stories published in the children’s anthology Milk Rice, and contains many colourful characters. “I’m mean,” said Ruchir Edirisinghe animatedly, speaking about his part as a gangster. “I’m not supposed to smile and I have to act afraid when the Boss comes.”

The story, while containing original elements, has been given a new twist by the children with a number of new characters added into it along with other embellishments. Milk Rice, which is edited by Ameena Hussain, can also be purchased on the night of the shows.

The plays will centre on the theme of economic hardships, and touch on aspects such as bullying, peer pressure and dealing with loss and disappointment – issues which are very relevant in the modern context and which young people can identify with. “The play tells of how children deal with these issues,” said Zahara Dawoodboy.

Rags to Riches tells the simple tale of a group who make it big at a talent show and rocket to fame, while Riches to Riches is about a well-off family who lose their wealth. As Rukmal Weerawarna says, “expect a show about what’s happening right now!” “We get to make up our own lines,” added Shamindri de Sayrah, explaining their involvement in the plays. Working without the aid of a script constantly keeps everyone on their toes, with each rehearsal being different to the next.

‘Kids at Play’ which was established with a handful of children six years ago, has now grown into a group of enthusiastic, animated children with a love for drama. “She’s not like most drama teachers,” said Viren Ratwatte, summing up their experience under Prof. Neluka’s guidance. Maisha Weerasinghe added that they’ve learnt core elements of drama such as breathing and concentration exercises as well as facial expressions.

The proceeds of the performance by ‘Kids at Play,’ will be donated towards The Christopher Care Centre – a daycare centre for the physically and mentally challenged. Programmes for the event can be obtained at Aashkii, 1, Maitland Crescent, Colombo 7 and the Punchi Theatre.

The electronic media sponsors for the production are Yes FM and Channel One MTV, while the print media sponsor will be The Sunday Times.

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