Learning perspectives through Devised Theatre

For the annual co-curricular club showcase held at the Hill Spring International School, Mumbai, our theatre facilitator Sayali Indulkar devised an original piece of theatre using the news articles about the December 2018 Mumbai Aarey Forest Fire incident as the starting point. The ensemble was a mix of 30 students from grades 7th, 8th, and 9th. Together, using drama based exercises, they explored various perspectives around a forest fire and how it affects natural habitats of various species, including humans. The piece titled “A Situational Day” combined performance elements of scene work, physical movement, slam poetry and storytelling.
Sayali chose to devise an original piece with the students because for her the process of collaborative devising “allows learners to understand a topic or an issue from multiple perspectives. They learn a lot about their personal viewpoints, approaches, and skills while working collaboratively with 29 other students. They engage in brainstorming sessions, persuasion, adaptation, and also consideration of others’ opinions.”

Through the process, students chose to present the forest fire incident from the perspective of the birds and animals who suffer the consequences of such disasters. Based on the contents from the news articles and reports, issues of deforestation, shrinking of natural habitats, forced migration of species, poaching, and forest land corruption were put forward in the piece. The whole idea was drawn from the common final statement of the news article that said “No casualties were reported.” This statement only took into account of any human casualty, but failed to consider the harm caused to the trees, and the animals and birds in that forest. And this is where the narrative started taking its shape.

After the performance, one of the teachers in the audience described it by saying, “The best part about the play was that it was engaging and interesting without being too didactic. The message sent was subtle yet powerful and it made us reflect and ponder on how we human beings lead our lives.”

When asked about the overall experience of the theatre club, and the devising process to develop an original piece of theatre, student participant Anaya Seth of grade 7 said, ”From what I have learned at the theatre club, a play is not only a performance but also a project. You must work on each aspect of it, from scripting and directing to lights and sound! This year, for our co-curricular day, I was pleased to have a hands-on role in the making of our production. I particularly enjoyed writing our very own slam poem as an additional element to the play. I feel like my year at this club has helped me build my performance skills, and also enhanced my understanding of the inner-workings of theatre productions.”