Twisting Tales with Jhalapala
Booster Cushion Theatre Visits in February 2016
After meeting Santanil in Berlin at Augen Mal, a festival supported by international theatre group ASSITEJ, we talked and discussed the idea of Booster Cushion Theatre visiting India to run workshops with Jhalapala.
Liaising with the British Council in India and London, we explored the possibility of making the event happen whatever the funding outcome may be. We were lucky to have the flight sponsored by London arts charity, Collage Arts and accommodation organised by Jhalapala.
Over the months, our small workshop idea developed into a two week visit to Kolkata, working with younger and older members of the group to devise their own retellings of traditional tales from both the UK and India. Several Indian and European tales were considered and pondered over, with the eventual selection being a combination of Vikram and Vettal tales and Grimm fairytale, Red Riding Hood.
Titled ‘Twisted Tales’, the workshop allowed for children to follow the ideas from the stories and actually take part to present a performance as well as allowing the mature members of the group to develop the stories and take main performing roles both alone and as part of an ensemble. Over the two weeks, Booster Cushion Theatre led workshops focusing on three main skills – retelling traditional tales, comical slapstick and physical theatre/mime techniques.
The core group of Jhalpala were very quick to learn and benefited a lot from the physical training that was offered and were able to apply the techniques with a high degree of skill into their presentations immediately.
Families were able to watch the finished show and the core group of adult performers developed the work to present around Bengal and India. Two articles appeared in local Bengal newspapers about the workshops and the final performance within Jhalapala’s rehearsal rooms.
The overwhelming feel of the workshop was the joy of performance and the pleasure of a new group making its own comical, surprising work. This was topped off by the satisfaction of presenting new work in such a short time to a family audience of mixed peoples from all over Kolkata and further afield.
The morale of the group was very high and the desire to take the style further was very strong. There was a lot of interest to explore more tales and many more people wished they could have taken part too.
What is needed now is to refine and develop the groups new skills presented so that they can perceive the finish that is possible and how to achieve that. To achieve this we expect a series of follow up workshops in technique and clown improvisation skills focusing on the producing touring theatre shows that can be put into a variety of locations, big or small.
Hence we consider a visit in January 2018 focusing on mime technique, eccentric character work, comical settings and fairytale reinterpretation, as well as portable design and simple acrobatic routines.