AHA Look who’s here! Puppets from around the world!

The AHA! moments are back in Ahmedabad! An amazing line up of seven puppet shows is waiting to enthrall children and young-at-heart alike, from, from July 14 to 20th at the International Theatre Festival for Children organized by the Ahmedabad based Neekoee Foundation in collaboration with Ranga Shankara of Bangalore.

The amazing and amusing puppet shows as far and wide as Germany, Switzerland, Peru, USA, UK as well as from around India are coming to Ahmedabad in this year’s “AHA!” – a theatre festival curated specially for children. The puppet shows are silent and have no language barriers but they do have a universal emotional appeal.

Kicking off on July 14 at HK Hall in Ahmedabad, the International Theatre Festival for Children is celebrating one of the oldest forms of theatre – puppetry. Neena Naishadh Parikh, the founder of Neekoee Foundation, who previously brought ‘Aha’ to Ahmedabad in 2017 & 2018, delightfully shares “Although the upper age group mentioned is 16 years, the performances can be equally enjoyed by adults. The performances would last from 45 to 60 minutes and would have concessional tickets for school students.” Neekoee have always endeavored to take this rich creativity to various sections of society. Back in 2018 for a Gujarati children play ‘Baavo Aavyo Baavo’, they organised special show to reach out to children from marginalised sections. With ‘AHA! International Theatre Festival for children‘ they are offering a similar promise.

AHA!, a befitting name for the Theatre for Children programme was initiated at Ranga Shankara, Bangalore, back in 2006. Ever since the festival has grown in scope and reach over the years.  “This is the expression of wonder, excitement and fulfilment that theatre arouses among the children in the audience as well as the performers”, says Arundhati Nag, theatre’s founder on the Ranga Shankara website.

 

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A still from Body Rhapsody play (Image Courtesy: Neekoee Foundation)

The International Theatre Festival for Children begins with Carnival of Transfiguro on July 14, from Switzerland that ‘invites you into a world full of delightful creativity, featuring creatures made from the human body, objects and eyes. It expands the imagination with loving stories of the everyday life of these quirky figures – figures that will charm you with their simplicity as well as their precision of expression.’

From PERU on July 15 the show ‘Body Rhapsody’ is  ‘a journey from the classical mime to the bodily puppets, in which Hugo ends up turning his body into a great altarpiece where exotic and graceful alien creatures walk.’

The Circle of Life’ on July 16, an original production from Ranga Shankara, Bangalore and is directed by S.Surendranath. The play is a lucid depiction of life and nature. It narrates the ‘constant’ role of ‘nature’ at every stage of human life. The score of the play is by flautist Pt Pravin Godkhindi, it is not common that Hindustani classical sound is used to narrate a children theatre act.

This amazing lineup continues with “Squirrels stole my underpants” from USA on 17th, “Happy Birthday” on 18th from Germany, “My Shadow and me” from UK on 19th and “Gulliver” on the 20th from New Delhi. “Squirrel Stole My Underpants” is an imaginative performance of a 3-year old’s adventures when she goes to her backyard to hang the laundry. “Happy Birthday! Or What’s Rattling In The Box?” is a fun-filled play that says a lot about being big and being small, about being parents and being kids. Drew Colby’s magic of shadow puppetry in “My Shadow and Me” is a stirring story weaving light and shadows. It will also be interesting to see the forever favourite tale of Gulliver, performed in the form of puppetry by Mohammad Shameem.

 

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Drew Colby’s Shadowgraphy performance can be seen at the AHA! International Theatre Festival For Children (Image Courtesy: Neekoee Foundation)

To achieve a one-to-one connect with the audience, the plays will cater to a limited number of people as audience. The touring theatre Carnival of Transfiguro, which is a combination of physical theatre and puppetry, will allow an audience capacity of 270, while Hugo Suarez’s Body Rhapsody where the conductor is using his own body part as puppets to create a narrative can have 300 people.

 

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The week-long schedule of AHA! International Theatre Festival For Children in Ahmedabad

Theatre plays a significant role in shaping personalities, especially in children. The immersive learning experience isn’t merely an exciting and memorable experience for toddlers, it helps them in developing a vivid imagination, patience, moral values, communication skills and expressions. Research from UCLA’s Graduate School of Education indicates that students who are exposed to the arts are more likely to be involved in community service, and are less likely to drop out of school.

AHA! has a long term objective. It is an effort to develop an audience for theatre. “Children who will grow up watching theatre will become adults interested in theatre,” explains Nag in an interview with Business Standard.

Creative Yatra recommends that children should experience these wonderful performances. It is not common for Ahmedabad to host such children-centric events. Find more about the event schedule here.

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