Direction : Akriti Singh
Cast : Varun Vazir, Dilshad Patel, Shivangi Singh and Pratik Kothari


Nayantara Nayar

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The play BREADCRUMBS begins in the 'Kingdom of Me-mine' where a series of odd events lead to a talking rat being appointed King for a year. The rat has rat-like priorities - nibbling and eating through everything he sets his eyes on and soon the entire kingdom is turned upside down. The play is ambitious and occasionally clever, but it tries to be many things: an enjoyable laugh-out-loud piece of theatre for children, an informative critique of modern lifestyles and a play that has fun with fairytales and their tropes. These intentions are admirable and not impossible to achieve. One only has to consider wonderful adaptations of the works of Rohald Dahl or closer to home, stage adaptations of the Jataka tales, but here, the enterprise is not backed by a strong script, and the staging is not seamless. Hence it struggles to engage audiences.

The use of many different characters from various fairytales, such as Cinderella or the Evil Queen and the mixing of their stories is not uncommon in children's theatre. When used effectively it can indicate to children that stories are not fixed and are always open to interpretation. In the play, the use of the different fairytales begins as an understandable attempt to create characters that the children can identify with, but the full potential of this element is never realised. There is to consider the fact that fairytales are more than simple bedtime stories for children. As J.R.R Tolkien argues in his essay 'On Fairy Stories', the fairytale, though the holder of some moral value, seeks to place this moral within a world that is 'magical'- the purpose of this magical undertone is that it serves as a link to our own imaginations. In BREADCRUMBS, the fairytales function only on the first level of signification and as such become a mere gateway for some of the play's more unfortunate plot points and comedic gags.

This lack is most apparent is the play's failure to flesh out its most ambitious goal: to create a critique of the consumption-driven, individualistic lifestyle. The use of a rat to play the polar opposite of the materialistic humans was clever as it speaks to the idea that we all have a part of us that is more animal than human and as such this part harkens for a simpler life. Similarly the use of song and certain bits of staging gave the play some life. What worked against these positives was an ill-conceived and long script that indulges in too many smaller acts. A tighter plot would have gone a long way in making the play more enjoyable.

BREADCRUMBS does not succeed in effectively delivering its moral messages: that the ends do not justify means, or that people are more important than things, or even that we really ought to simply try to be much nicer to one another. Yet the group's attempt to produce a children's play that works on multiple levels of signification is evident-it only requires more work on their part.

*Nayantara Nayar is a freelance scriptwriter based out of Mumbai. She has previously worked as an artistic director and resource trainer for a youth theatre company in Chennai. She enjoys writing about theatre and the arts.

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