Photo by Twiggy
Travelling Circus is an excellent play, I recommend seeing it while you can. This is Mind Adventures’ first original play – directede by Tracy Holsinger – and, I think, their best. It is random, musical, free-flowing, but to a point. It also tackles the issues of war and displacement in a very direct and yet entirely unboring way.
The basic plot structure is a boy who speaks in numbers, a cow who moans cost of living and a village that gets bombed, displaced, imprisoned and then freed. What’s interesting is that the script is devised, meaning it’s been pretty much made up during rehearsals. So that means that the story digresses quickly and readily into jokes and snide asides and also incorporates musical elements like a mash-up.
Musical Mash Up
Mash-ups, like those by Girl Talk (and half the stuff on Hype Machine), are a new sort of music where old songs are endlessly remixed and rehashed. It’s like early hip-hop but more hipster, and white. The play incorporates music not in a 3-minute set piece manner, but in 15 second snippets. I find it entirely suited for my attention span. The music is also sung in tune but simply by the energetic cast, with backing from mostly mouth and body music.
For example, DJ Wombatu raps at the IDP camp, when reporters come Tracy Jayasinghe sings bits of ‘Oh, Give Me A Home’ (till the guards stop her), then ‘All I Want Is A Room Somewhere’ (also too risqué) and finally where have all the boys gone. Then there is Brandon Ingram singing ‘Ice Ice Baby’ and offering ice cream, chocolate, vanilla and cholera to people waiting in line. These random, relevant song snippets are throughout the piece and they’re never saccharine or long enough to make me cringe, as with most musicals.
Another aspect, I think derived from being devised, is that the piece is constantly moving and doesn’t feel read as much as performed. It is based on a story by Mike Masilamani, but I think significant bits are made up by the cast. There is a different, more deliberative speed to the written word and this play rather lurches and jerks forwards at a more momentary speed. The cast actually stops during the play to faux-rewrite the ending. To this Twitter generation, this makes the thing more watchable because it’s a product of social, interactive thought by the performers and it’s much more of a (IMHO) living thing.
The performers are also, at this point, well practiced and almost entirely devoid of shame. No one’s afraid to strike a pose or sing or writhe around like mad people, so they do. Ryan Holsinger somehow make a cricket game crotchally vulgar, Tehani Chitty moans like a hurt cow, the sounds eventually coalescing into cost of living indexes and occasional frenzied bursts of ‘mung atta mung atta mung atta’.
The drama is also very physical as Prasad Pereira spends a good portion of the performance in a tree while the others are trying to smash him (a lizard) with brooms. Probably the audience’s favorite performance is Subha Wijesiriwardena as the camp’s dominant auntie, doing a bit of an Annie number with the boy who speaks in numbers (Ruvin De Silva). Another gem is Gihan De Chickera (from Machang) who often makes just a few lines stick like he made them up on the spot. Perhaps he did.
So, I recommend watching the play. It’s entertaining, original and the venue at the church grounds next to BMICH (Google Maps) is also new and entertaining. It’s a sort of amphitheater with a stage centered around a tree and professional sound and lights. Also a canopy if it rains. Tickets are Rs. 500 and available at the door and I think entirely worth it. The thing runs three more nights, till Monday. For more info visit mindadventuressl.com.