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Pining to see Peter Pan?

Bangalore School of Speech and Drama brings Peter Pan to the stage this weekend



NOT JUST FOR KIDS The Peter Pan stage production will steer clear of the song-and-dance formula PHOTO: V. SREENIVASA MURTHY

It's a wonderful metaphor: in a world where children grow up all too quickly, the lure of never having to grow up is far too strong to ignore. Thanks to Zulfia Shaikh of the Bangalore School of Speech and Drama, that "boy who never grew up", Peter Pan will finally appear on the Bangalore stage.

The school's production is being staged at Christ College on June 24, in as grand a manner as J.M. Barrie's seminal work merits. The cast incorporates no less than 50 students of the drama school, ranging in age from 19 years right down to five. The production will also stay completely faithful to the original work, even sporting costumes that replicate the original stage version. And, if all goes well, the population of Neverland might even manage to fly across the stage.

As we speak about the production, Dr. Shaikh is hard pressed to contain her enthusiasm for this play. One of the primary reasons, she says, is that this is the first time the production is really being attempted in such a manner in India. "It has probably never been done because of the physical demand involved." Just creating the sets, she points out, is an arduous task. "You have to be able to show two worlds, here and Neverland. Then you have to show the various levels in Neverland, including separate spaces for underground and above ground."

What is also interesting about the production is that it uses the script written for the original stage version rather than any of the later adaptations. Sourcing that script has itself been an uphill task, Dr. Shaikh reveals. "The Peter Pan novels and movie screenplays are the only ones you can find. The original play script has almost become extinct." Thus, she explains, Peter Pan will appear in Bangalore as he was originally intended to be, "with minimal alterations to fit the physical constraints here".

One key difference between Peter Pan and other children's productions, Dr. Shaikh takes great pains to explain, is that it steers clear of the standard song and dance formula. The focus here is on acting. "And doing one-and-a-half hours of just acting with children of this age is quite a challenge. But you don't always have to have them doing a jig on stage," she says.

Peter Pan comes in a long line of ticketed children's plays staged by the Bangalore School of Speech and Drama. Past productions include Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl, Time Upon a Once — an original script written by Dr. Shaikh, and This Is Where We Came In by Sir Alan Ayckbourn. "It is important to remember that these are productions by children, but not just for children." With Peter Pan, she hopes that adults will come into the hall expecting a performance for children, and get caught in it themselves.

Peter Pan is being staged at Christ College on June 24, with a show for school and college students at 11.30 a.m. and a public performance at 7 p.m. Tickets are priced at Rs. 100 and Rs. 200. For details and tickets, contact 98450 71197, 98863 60004 and 98454 00873.

RAKESH MEHAR

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