Hanuman: The Tale Behind the Name

Hanuman - Out of the Box Festival. Image Supplied.
Hanuman – Out of the Box Festival. Image Supplied.

Hanuman, a cheeky child monkey, gets impatient when his mother takes too long finding mangoes for him in the forest. In his hunger, he mistakes the sun for a giant mango and tries to eat it, incurring the wrath of the storm god and jeopardising the world.

Originally a commission by Esplanade Theatre on the bay for Kalaa Utsavam, Indian Festival of the Arts 2015, this traditional Hindu tale comes to QPAC as part of the Out of the Box Festival.

This show is aimed at 4-8 year olds, although it feels as though the younger end of this range would probably be most appropriate. It is a mix of narrative folklore, dance, music and audience interaction. The costumes are vibrant, but the set could be more effective and appealing. With a piano and drum (played by Anil Srinivasan and Shivanesh Soma Sundram respectively) in the corner, and a screen to play simple animations, the overall impression it gives is, unfortunately, disjointed as well as sparse.

Under the direction of Anil Srinivasan, the story is at times fragmented (particularly the transition between the tale from Hanuman’s mischievous childhood and the more heroic tale of his adult exploits). Particularly for a children’s show, the dialogue and narration would benefit from more humour, and their presentation could be more lively.

The traditional dancing is well executed (by Minal Merai, Ponnamma Devaiah and Ramassamy), charming and very pretty to watch, but it is not well integrated into the narrative.

While the audience interactions are fun – it certainly excites the children – the show otherwise lacks energy and can be slow moving.

Still, all these critiques aside, Hanuman does manage to engage children, keeping them focused and quiet. They enjoy the monkey child’s cheekiness, and I wonder if the frequent jumping between different performance mediums keeps them guessing and interested. With more development and imagination, this show could have really taken off.


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