Direction : Joy Fernandes
Writer : Apeksha Harsh and Joy Fernandes
Cast : Asfiyah Qadri, Sahil Shah, Hrishita Acharya, Ira Sharma, Kush Shah, Reina Bhatkuly, Keya Kumar, Zayan Dholoo, Siddhant Sathe, Saatvik Kher, Pradyumn Karnani


Salena Sinha

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Whoever says that teenagers don't care about problems faced by our society and our humanity, need to watch this play.

TALES FROM THE OTHER SIDE: UNTOLD HISTORIES AND HIDDEN TRUTHS, co-written by Joy Fernandes and Apeksha Harsh, and directed by Joy Fernandes, is performed by a talented cast, comprising only teen actors. It is surreal in its detail and portrayal.

The dialogues, music, and the overall vibe of the production keep the dramatic atmosphere in perfect balance. Elements of mystery and comedy are present throughout the production. The stories offer a modern twist to conventional fairy tales. They refer to social, political and environmental issues of the present, and become a great medium to spread awareness about issues that all of us must care for. The stories are no longer clichés. The objective of the production is to highlight the dangers of technology and isolation, whatever its benefits are.

The stage design, hats off to Komal Suryawanshi, is simple but very good with its artwork panels in the background that are representative of each story. The actors use the design to its full potential, as they form imaginative groups in front of the selected panel before each story. They may be aliens, explorers, historians, or just a bunch of curious young minds -it's open to interpretation. They examine each panel with flashlights, and then ensue with the tale. They build up the drama with a prologue to each of the stories.

Little Red Riding Hood, like in the fairytale we know, is going to visit her grandmother. But this Red Riding Hood lives in a dystopian society that suffers from the consequences of mankind's destruction of the environment, and her 'big, bad wolf' is a non-human spy that recycles humans. There are hints of xenophobia and intolerance towards immigrants, which are part of our present day reality.

In the tale of the thirsty crow, the crow suffers from dehydration, as its natural environment lies devastated. The two boys and the girl who are engaged in filming this are more concerned about the film and not about the crow. They are self-absorbed and insensitive. The 'Plastic Ghats' that the group is recording, speaks of our exploitation of the environment, and to which we regularly turn a blind eye.

The 'ugly' duckling is ugly because he's dark. He's not as fair as the other ducks in the pond, so to blend in, he tries a whitening cream and even resorts to cosmetic surgery, prompted by his mother who wants the best for him. It is all vain and shallow, and the story tries to sensitise us to our notions of colour, linked to racism as well as the standard of beauty that is imposed by marketing and endorsed by our society.

Speaking of society, the hare and the rabbit are best friends pitted against each other because of peer pressure, and popularity on social media. They resort to using steroids and boosters to perform better, and the turtle eventually dies of an overdose.

The witch from Hansel and Gretel only wants the best for children, but the kids are too busy with their cell phones and life styles, gorging on fast food. They are no longer healthy. The witch is cast out until this new age Hansel and Gretel encounter her in a house made up of vegetables instead of candy.

Another example of the 'good villain' is the wolf from the Three Little Pigs. The two younger pigs built their houses out of straw and matchsticks, and without permission, but the eldest pig's house survives because it was built online.

Drugs, peer pressure, lack of awareness about the law, unhealthy lifestyles, intolerance, pollution, society's expectations...these are important subjects that must be discussed but not many speak of these. Productions like these are therefore a wonderful conduit by which subjects can be raised for the young and old alike. This production is fresh and an eye-opener. I greatly appreciate the cast, the writers and the director, the producer, and everyone who has had a hand in making it happen.

Salena Sinha, a Grade 9 student from Nahar International School, secured the first place, which she shares with Valerie Nayak from Bombay Scottish school, in the review writing competition that was held by The Pomegranate Workshop, an Arts Education Company in collaboration with Mumbai Theatre Guide.

Review By Valerie Nayak
Review By Aryan Verulkar
Review By Durga Naniwadekar

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