“Insanely, smile inducing.” would be my answer to the question: What’s it like to watch a play with 600 kids?
The answer sure surprised me because I’m not a kid-friendly person; I’m not very fond of children’s plays and I have NEVER woken up for a 11 am show (not even 11 am press conferences). So I was my usual, grumpy self when I got stuck behind three bus loads of kids who were reluctantly following instructions from their teachers about how to (and how not to) behave while watching the play. But my Vespa (yes, the plug is necessary) and I managed to vroom into the auditorium complex just in time before Ranga Theatre’s Quixotic Wonderland began. I was plonked next to a very sweet school teacher, who was able to deftly suppress every noisy uprising within her ranks (except for the time she took a loo break and chaos ensued immediately).
I’m not very sure if I’d have enjoyed Quixotic Wonderland much if I hadn’t watched it with the kids. The play begins with some visually exciting choreography and it promptly had the young audience in its hold. The music, by Gagan Riar, was perfect for the production (I’m still humming the Shri Don Quixote number). But many of the cast members faltered. Beyond a point, I couldn’t forgive Sancho Panza’s mishandling of his prop horse despite his lovely singing voice. Also, the repeated use of entries from within the auditorium eventually became a distraction. When the action on stage got slow, children turned entirely towards the alternate entry points waiting to discover a new character’s entry. As for the play, I was expecting something more from this literary classic mash-up, some more give and take between the characters but they seemed to be too comfortable in their established identities to effect any drastic change in the script.
Anyway the performance was completely lapped up by the children and my complaints didn’t quite matter. And how could one not laugh along when an auditorium full of brats gave up Don Quixote’s hiding place in the tunnel or roared with laughter on the Red Queen’s eccentricities. The cast also earns full points for controlling the children without ever stepping out of character. Performing for children is a task taken up only by the brave and director Bijon Mondal’s troupe kept their audience engaged.
I wasn’t allowed to shoot videos or take pictures during the show but I managed to capture the audience reaction to the play… See how the kids excitedly met their favourite characters and hear them cheer louder and louder on Don Quixote’s entry…
Junoon’s Arts at Play for Schools in numbers
6095 audience: 5907 students + 188 teachers
(includes a few non-teacher adults like me 🙂 )
Quixotic Wonderland was performed as part of the shows programmed by Junoon for the Arts at Play for Schools programme. To find out more, visit Junoon Theatre