Saturday 21 October 2017

Child Of The Divide - Big Imaginations Festival Launch At Z-Arts

Tonight we attended the VIP Family Launch of the Big Imaginations Festival. This is a huge Family Theatre Event which encompasses 9 Shows over 18 Days at 26 Venues in the North West. The Launch Event was followed by the first North West performance of Child Of The Divide.

The journey into Manchester was uneventful and all the traffic was going the opposite way, and as soon as we arrived we were offered a plate full of delicious Z-Arts CafeZ veggie and vegan curries with all the extras, so it really got off to a great start!

Z-Arts Youth Theatre Group did a short performance and there was a really good range of interesting activities on offer for the children, including a lighting set up that pixellated whoever stood in front. Our boys had a bit of a shy dance (and some dabbing). There was shaker-making, balloon football (sorry about that), pop-up monster making, puppet-making and sweets, juice in cartons and cake. My boys had a great time!

Above all else, all 3 of my lot loved the Vegetable Instruments. There's a lot more skill in making a carrot flute than you'd imagine! Huge thanks to our calm and patient tutor Kirsty Gbasai.

At 7pm, complete with our hollowed-out watermelon drums and carrot flutes, we took our seats for Child Of The Divide. This is a more grown up play which is suitable for children over 7 or 8 only.

Sudha Buchar's tale of partitioning in India, and a child's struggle when he is separated from his family as they flee, was a very emotional start to the Big Imaginations Festival. It was also some of the most impressive acting I've ever seen. The actors really lived those roles and the Mothers - both of them - had me sobbing the whole way through.

The stage was very sparse and the backdrop a huge map showing the border between India and Pakistan. Props were mostly brown and innocuous, lighting was subtle. It immediately gave a feel for the gravity of the characters' situation, the people were always the main focus.

In the opening scenes the 5 year old Hindu boy loses sight of his family as they flee to the newly-created Pakistan and he is left alone and with nothing, as he cannot stay in his home. He is found by a Muslim man and taken home to his wife. They've been unable to have children and are desperate for a family, so gladly take the boy in. He has to behave as a Muslim to survive and adopts that faith and it's customs. 5 years later the border is opened, and his father starts a search to find him.

The loss of a child is something we are unfortunately familiar with and so from the outset my partner and I were more immersed than many. I'd jokingly taken tissues and I'm glad I did. Both of our boys held us tight at certain points and my 7 year old was very aware of how old the main character was throughout the play as the years passed. That makes it sound harrowing, it wasn't. It was personal to us and there were also times that the children giggled and laughed aloud.

When the play started I wasn't sure I could appreciate an adult playing a young child, but it really worked. He was understated, yet his approximate age at each point was really clear. The actors really were the absolute stars of this show. I can still see the boy's adoptive mother when she realises she could lose her child. She had tears rolling down her silent, stoic face. I did too.

A cast of 5 playing every character across a 7 year timespan and in front of an audience of children is an impressive ask, but they pulled it off so well that it was half way through when my 7 1/2 year old whispered "he's his Dad too you know".

Sometimes you have to stand and face things you don't like, and it really does no harm for children to learn and adults be reminded that partitioning of countries destroys lives. It is never wrong to be reminded that every time someone says 'refugee', it's not a what, it's a who. A human just like themselves, with hopes and fears and loves.

We had the most awesome conversations in the car on the way home, and when we got in, the globe was out straight away to find Pakistan and India.

A truly excellent performance of a heartbreaking yet hopeful story which must be true so many times, in so many countries across the world, that we have begun to forget those numbers are even people. A very respectful and respectable start to the Big Imaginations Festival which runs until November 5th.

For a full list of exactly what is on (and where and when) go to the Big Imaginations Festival website. 

To find out more about Z-Arts and what they offer, as well as their upcoming theatre productions, go to the Z-Arts website

We were invited to attend to review.

1 comment:

  1. This looks like a fantastic thing to do. I love the musical vegetables x


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