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Mumbai: Object Theatre festival to showcase plays, workshops

The art trust team that curated the festival approached international object theatre companies and artists that they have collaborated with in the past or are familiar with.

AFTER THE success of Fairytales Retold, a virtual object theatre festival held in November 2020, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) approached Tram Arts Trust to organise an international festival to showcase this unique performance art, an offshoot of puppetry. On Thursday, the art trust, in collaboration with CSMVS’s Children’s Museum, is rolling out Thing-A-Magic, a four-day-long International Object Theatre Festival with six plays, workshops and talks.

The art trust team that curated the festival approached international object theatre companies and artists that they have collaborated with in the past or are familiar with. The team looked for object theatre plays as well as those that combined this art form with others. The conditions for selecting the plays were that they should be family-audience friendly, apart from being suitable for the digital medium. “The selection was done keeping in mind the desire to give the audience an idea about the varied possibilities and diversities of object theatre,” says Choiti Ghosh, founder of Tram Arts Trust.

Ghosh says, “Object Theatre is a new art form in general. It is said to have branched out in 1980 with histories in puppetry, acting, plastic arts, visual arts, animation, consumer culture and others. With roots in Europe, it is the new cool kid on the block. I guess 50 years can be considered new given that puppetry is a nearly 4,000 years old art form.”

Scheduled to be performed during the festival, Plastic Heroes is a play by Ariel Doron made entirely of ‘readymade’ children’s toys, mainly those of soldiers, and incorporates iPads, iPhones and videos. Bologna-based La Baracc-a’s Frames explores how our memories are made of windows, fragments of stories we have listened to, images we have seen and emotions we have felt since we were young. Rome-based Unter-Wasser’s Boxes is a show made up of a number of interactive installations while Hunt, a play by Bengaluru-based Sannidhi Surop, questions the tropes of ‘big bad wolf’. The other two plays are Dafa Puppet Theatre’s Smooth Life, a documentary-style performance about a Palestinian raised in a refugee camp, and Gerda’s Room by Osobnyak Theatre.

Describing the festival as “sort of like an object theatre menu card”, Ghosh says: “While some of the performances are purely object theatre-based, as the festival progresses, we get to see this theatre form being combined with puppetry, storytelling and various other genres. The styles of all the six plays are as varied and distinct as the artists themselves.”

On Sunday at 11.30 am, the founder of Brussels-based Gare Centrale company Agnès Limbos will deliver a talk titled ‘They are not props’. Luiz André Cherubini and Sandra Vargas — co-founders of Grupo Sobrevento, a Brazilian theatre company dedicated to puppetry — will hold a workshop on Saturday and Sunday at 3 pm.

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