How do you convince your audience that the 10-year-olds on stage are, in fact, hobbits and dwarves? By scaling down your sets, and of course, turning the grown-ups into dwarves. A to Zee Creativity’s annual theatre production has done just that, with their true-to-page adaptation of JRR Tolkein’s popular prequel.
Shaan Katari Libby spent the better part of summer vacations turning The Hobbit into a script. She has stayed loyal to Tolkien for the most part — “I don’t think we have the ability to do better than him” — so much so that she believes fans of the books will enjoy her play more than The Lord of the Rings film buffs would.
However, she has gone ahead with one intriguing change. “I find that with a lot of these old favourites, the protagonists are mostly male,” observes Shaan, “So, out of the 13 hobbits in my script, six are female. Not just that, the role of Lord Elrond (the wise and regal half-elf), though male, will be played by a girl.”
Other changes were less matters of choice and more necessities for the sake of time. “We couldn’t fit the entire book into the script, and had to take out a number of scenes,” rues Shaan. “We also omitted some of the bloodier battle scenes,” she adds, observing that the book itself has its dark moments, and doesn’t exactly qualify as a children’s book.
“So, even though our cast consists mainly of children and we have treated the production like a children’s one, I would say this play is not for the really little kids,” she says.
Painstaking efforts have been taken to keep the script and costumes canon: the team looked at The Hobbit stage productions from around the world before planning their stage. The final set, designed by Victor Paulraj, is something Shaan is particularly proud of. As proud as she is of the costumes designed by her mother, Tehzeeb Katari, who has the characters feasting, trekking and fighting goblins in the signature brown robes. The sound track, composed by Anniroodh Kumararaja, has already found its way to the radio channels.
The cast is largely within the age group of nine to 17 years — albeit the ‘giants’, are played by The Madras Players’ actors and three High Court lawyers. “The adults have quite a bit of fun in their scene, stomping on to stage and pretending to pick and throw the little ones,” laughs Shaan, before hastening to add that every antic on stage is perfectly safe. The fun of it made the magic easier to weave, especially as every cast member turned into an ardent Tolkein fan by the end of it.
“I had asked all the children to read the book over the holidays. Of course, some did and others didn’t. But over the course of rehearsals, they became more and more intrigued and now everyone is a fan,” gushes Shaan, “They are already asking if we can do The Lord of the Rings next. But that depends on how well this play does.”
The Hobbit will be staged on October 4 and 5 at Museum Theatre, Egmore, at 6.30 pm. A lucky member of the audience will win Bilbo’s golden ring each night. For tickets, log on to www.eventjini.com