The sixth Hakawy International Arts Festival for Children (4-14 March) invites the youngest audience members to attend various theatre performances staged at three halls of the Hanager Arts Centre. The festival kicked off with Aga Boom by the Theatre of Physical Comedy from the USA. As it continues, shows from Germany, Switzerland, France, and Australia are being performed several times. Another aspect of the festival is the artistic cooperation between Sweden and Egypt represented by the Awtar Quartet, which resulted in Jinane, a performance that fuses music and storytelling. The festival also includes workshops and an exhibition by the young Egyptian artist Khadija El-Dessouky.
Hakawy has featured numerous countries and performances in past years, luring whole families into the theatre. But this year features the first contribution by Australia, Stick Stones Broken Bones by the Bunk Puppets troupe, a show that incorporate an original and internationally successful shadow comedy technique in which the puppeteer performs in front of the screen on which the shadows are projected, not behind it.
In an almost one hour long experience, the audience is transported into a fun world where mime, clowning and puppetry meet. It is also a fascinating amalgam of theatrically constructed and precise elements beautifully juxtaposed as the props turn into the characters, coming alive to create the stories, and the audience is invited to actively interaction with both puppeteer and shadows.
Stick Stones Broken Bones was created by Jeff Achtem and represents one of four shows the 15-strong Bunk Puppets, who include musicians as well as actors. Though it has been in the company’s repertoire for 15 years, Tim Sneddon, who captivated the Egyptian audience with his energy and dynamism, has only performed it for two years.
“I’ve been acting since I was six years old,” Sneddon commented after one of the Cairo shows. “I’ve been always making shows, back in Australia, with different groups of people. I am very fortunate to come from Melbourne which is a very artistic city. There is so much being made all the time. It is also a very supportive community which often collaborates together.”
Sneddon is equally enthusiastic behind the scenes, as he expresses his passion for theatre and the joy he experiences performing Stick Stones Broken Bones, a show he describes as “an amazing experience with material that grows throughout each staging.”
It is such fascination that enables a creative professional who, though an adult today, can locate the child in each of us. Still, Sneddon believes that art plays a vital role in mental formation.
“Children need to see art and be involved with art,” he says. “Art makes them more perceptive, more aware, more self-aware, it makes them better scientists, technicians, thinkers. There are not many times where you can be completely transported to a new place, perceiving and enjoying it at the same time. It is an intelligent act to watch art.”