Connections India, the NCPA’s Youth Theatre Programme, in Association with National Theatre, London, Set for the Final Act of its Second Edition

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The National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), Mumbai is proud to associate with the National Theatre; London, to bring an exciting and unique youth theatre initiative – Connections India – for the second time to schools in Mumbai. This holistic theatre programme offers students across age groups the opportunity to perform at a festival of fantastic new plays written for young people by award-winning global playwrights. In its second rendition, Connections India will witness 10 schools from around Mumbai, present their theatre experience on stage at the Experimental Theatre, NCPA between the 11th to the 15th of January 2024.
 

The lineup for Connections India at the NCPA
 

Connections India’s objective is solely to inculcate experience-oriented education amongst growing children by creating a space for theatre catered to young people by young people. The programme includes 10 participant schools, a step up from the eight schools last year. Committed to making theatre inclusive and accessible to all, six of the ten schools are affiliated with NGOs, including Teach for India, Aseema Charitable Trust, Akanksha Foundation and Angel Xpress Foundation. This year, the festival also comprised of engaging workshops, tours and field trips at the NCPA. Scripts commissioned by the National Theatre, carefully developed with input from young people, have been directed by professional theatre directors from Mumbai, each of whom have been working with one school. Additionally, two facilitators from the National Theatre have been providing their expertise throughout the process, beginning with the workshop they conducted for the theatre directors at the NCPA in August last year.
 

Speaking about the second season of Connections India, Bruce Guthrie, Head of Theatre and Films, NCPA, said, “The idea is to build on the success of last year and hopefully expand it into a truly national project with future editions. We have done that by including workshops, trips and tours of the NCPA, to bring different schools in the same space together. The conversations that are then enabled form the crux of the festival, they are what makes it a festival. Every single teacher that we worked with, and a majority of the parents felt that their kids had been massively changed by the experience for the better and that is huge. One of the great questions facing us, particularly working with NGO schools, is how to continue the opportunity. It’s about creating space to learn and grow. And this is a keystone event for us in that sense. Our crown jewel, as it were, is the Connections Festival.”
 

Bethany Pitts, NT Facilitator, expressed,Connections is about so much more than the performance itself. The rehearsal process develops transferable skills like teamwork, problem-solving, building confidence and developing an understanding of people through exploring character. The plays specifically written for young people also allow them to explore topics that might be affecting them—bullying, climate change or grief—in a safe space and to develop empathy and understanding for experiences outside of their own. With the workshops, we wanted to create a sense of ensemble. You don’t often get to spend time in a room full of directors. It was an incredible resource for everyone involved to have all these other directors investigating their play together, like one huge director’s brain. Our experience in India was a bit of a whirlwind! It was brilliant to meet so many artistes and directors here and learn about the great work the NCPA is doing. We are looking forward to seeing what all the directors have created and to see a different season in Mumbai.”
 

The shows are directed by Danesh A. R Khambata, Rachel Burchett, Shruti Sharma, Gurleen Judge, Padma Damodaran, Asif Ali Beg, Rasika Agashe, Aakash Prabhakar, Amey Mehta and Chakori Dwivedi.
 

The extensive curriculum will culminate at the NCPA in January with final performances from the participants. Tickets are available on Book My Show and at the NCPA Box Office. Audience members can avail tickets to the 5-day festival at just Rs. 100 for each show.
 

Book Tickets on Book My Show
 

Production details:

Play Details: 

Play: Model Behaviour

School: Bombay International School

Playwright: Jon Brittain

Director: Danesh A.R Khambata

Synopsis: When Mr Smallwood announces that the Politics class are going to spend an entire day role playing what it’s like to be a delegate at the United Nations, Ronni is delighted. Everyone else in the class isn’t and they quickly exhibit their contempt for the project. A fast-paced comic, white-knuckle-ride through the rollercoaster of personal (playground) politics played out against the backdrop of the world stage.

Play: Mobile Phone Show

School: DSB 

Playwright: Jim Cartwright

Director: Rachel Burchett (Mentor Rachel D’souza)

Synopsis: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, the performance is about to begin, could I please ask you all to turn your mobile phones ON. Thank you.’ Could you function without your mobile phone? Or would you have a meltdown? We all use them – they’ve become extensions of us and can rule our lives. Twisted Tales bring Jim Cartwright’s timely black comedy to the Fringe. It examines the way we communicate in a playful and provocative way, using audience participation and a whole heap of mobile phones – take a text break and join us!

Play: The Changing Room

School: Institute of Classical and Modern Dance

Playwright: Chris Bush

Director: Shruti Sharma

Synopsis: It’s about bodies in flux and perspectives shifting; knowing change is coming but not what that change will look like. Set in and around a swimming pool, The Changing Room follows a group of teens full of excitement, impatience and uncertainty, each with their own secret worries and desires for what comes next.

Play: HUNT

School: Aditya Birla World Academy

Playwright: Fionnuala Kennedy

Director: Gurleen Judge

Synopsis: Hunt is about a group of teenagers playing their version of hide and seek. Their version entails ‘borrowing’ objects from their neighbours back gardens, and ‘dumping’ them at the ‘box’ without being caught, by either the official pursuers or the neighbours who’s gardens they are infringing upon – hence the chances of being caught are twofold. The more outlandish and extraordinary the object and the more difficult to acquire it is, the more kudos you score. This is a hunt they will never forget.

Play: Tuesday

School: Teach For India (NGO)

Playwright: Alison Carr

Director: Padma Damodaran

Synopsis: The play centres on an ordinary Tuesday that suddenly turns very weird indeed when a tear rips across the sky over the school yard. Not only that, but it starts sucking up pupils and staff while at the same time raining down a whole new set of people. But, then, that’s what happens when parallel worlds collide!

Play: Like theres no tomorrow

School: Akanksha (NGO)

Playwright: The Belgrade Young Company

Director: Asif Ali Beg

Synopsis: Like There’s No Tomorrow is about climate change. Set in an imagined city now, the people are choking on the fumes from the cars and the factories, produced by the slavish commitment of the masses to mass consumerism and mass consumption. And yet they still vote for more and more – more cheap clothes, more cheap travel and more disposable goods in a fast ephemeral life. It seems only one or two people can see through this non-sustainable madness, but when they open their mouths to speak up, they cannot be heard; their words are strangled in their throats as they choke on the poisonous fumes they are forced to inhale, and besides, no one can hear them above the cacophony created by the wheels of the global economy grinding against each other. Even when the evidence of imminent climate disaster across the globe is staring them in the face, as the world literally cracks up before their very eyes, still no one wants to listen; they just want to carry on consuming, like they have always have and always will – won’t they?

Play: Variations (translated)

School: Aseema (NGO)

Playwright: Katie Hims

Director: Rasika Agashe

Synopsis: Thirteen-year-old Alice wishes her life was completely different. She wakes up one morning to find that her life is different. In fact, it’s so different that all she wants to do is get back to normality. But how does she do that? A play about family, string theory and breakfast.

Play: Salt (translated)

School: Angel Xpress (NGO)

Director: Aakash Prabhakar

Synopsis: Life is never plain sailing, but when a new government initiative comes into place offering young people the chance to train and gain new skills overseas, drones of teenagers jump at the chance to secure their future.

Play: Same (translated)

School: Colaba Municipality Upper Primary English School (BMC School)

Playwright: Deborah Bruce

Director: Amey Mehta

Synopsis: When Josie dies in an old people’s home, her grandchildren gather to share their memories of her, and her fellow residents feel the effects of her death as her funeral takes place. Is the gulf between the young and old as wide as it feels, or are we fundamentally the same inside whatever age we are?

Play: Bhoomi Dhaara (translated)

School: Shatabdi Sohala Sahakar Nagar MNP Shala School Hindi 1 (BMC School)

Playwright: Nell Leyshon

Director: Chakori Dwivedi (Mentor Rachel D’souza)

Synopsis: A group of classmates is torn apart by the opportunity to perform their own dance. As they disagree and bicker, two distinct physical groups emerge and separate into opposing teams. When a strange outsider appears — out of step with everyone else — the divide is disrupted. A contemporary narrative dance piece about individuality, community and heritage. “I wanted to write a play that used the language of the body as well as the tongue. The point where text meets movement is a fascinating place to explore, and I thought it important to engage young people who might not be interested in straight performance, but something more dynamic. I also wanted to address how many judgements we make when we meet new people, both conscious and unconscious.” — Nell Leyshon.