The curtain opens. There is a picture of a mountain above the stage and below everything is covered with white colored clothes. The clothes begin to move like a wave of water. Three characters, who are in fact personifications of rivers, take out white clothes and tell one by one their journey as a river.
“My rest ends here in a dam; I begin my journey now. First I will melt, then flow again to take a new course,” says one of the rivers.
This is the beginning of the play Hiunko Prithvi Yatra (the journey of snow to earth) performed at the Shilpee Theatre. The drama, written and directed by Amjad Prawej and Ghimire Yubaraj, brings up the state’s global climate concerns to raise awareness among theatergoers in Kathmandu. It’s quite special because such issues are rarely addressed in the performing arts here.
Local concerns about global issues
Imagine that you are thirsty but deprived of water. There is not a single drop of water inside your house and all the water resources near you are also dried up. Doesn’t that sound scary?
In Hiunko Prithvi Yatra, a similar scenario unfolds on stage.
A father character, played by Jhakendra BC, is thirsty and cannot find water to drink. When he asks about water, his daughter replies that the tube well in their village in the Terai has dried up and there is no water in the house.
Meanwhile, everyone in the village is desperately waiting for the rain. The protagonist thinks people will die of starvation and water shortage. And everyone’s life in the village is in crisis.
While the characters are talking about the water crisis, a storm intervenes. They hope for rain and even take out the utensils to fill the rainwater. But, their hope turns to disappointment because it is not raining.
This is how Hiunko Prithvi Yatra is directly linked to climate change and its effects on human life. It is an interesting theme because the theaters of Kathmandu are mainly occupied with other socio-political themes. The play therefore also has the potential to make people aware of the importance of conserving water resources.
In particular, the piece deals with the significance of rivers and water in living beings. The play shows how difficult life has been due to water scarcity, especially for those who depend on fishing for a living.
Strong sense of presentation
Apart from the theme, another thing you must praise about Hiunko Prithvi Yatra is its presentation. For example, during one scene, the characters artistically use flashlights to bring fireflies onto the stage.
Then, the use of props, the scenography and the personification of rivers, fish and elephants, among others, make the room interesting and show the creative aspect of the creators. The play has many other fascinating aspects, which will be a spoiler if mentioned here.
The plot of Hiunko Prithvi Yatra is set in the plains of southern Nepal where the characters use the Tharu dialect. Their accent is on point and doesn’t sound weird or obnoxious.
Another thing that made the play beautiful and dynamic is its live music performed by Smarika Phuyal, Anup Timalsina and director Prawej himself. The play features different songs and all of them are originally written and composed.
All these songs are perfectly accompanied by guitar, ukulele, harmonica, cajon, shaker and dholak. All songs and melodies are there to make every Hiunko Prithvi Yatra activity more meaningful and relevant.
Nirmal Rawal on the light did a marvelous job. The lighting effects are managed with precision to give the right feeling to each scene. They are used in specific time to depict subjects like death, river flow, thunderstorms and others.
Music and light brought the room to life.
Key Questions for Humanity
Meanwhile, Hiunko Prithvi Yatra not only tells the story of a river, but also depicts the feeling of the river. The personified river tells how the dams prevented it from flowing freely. He is also concerned about the dryness of the land.
What happens at the end of the play is sad, unexpected and unusual. But, it is also powerful because it vividly reflects the shameful practice of human society. Moreover, it also asks questions about development and politics that are directly or indirectly indifferent to rivers, climate change and other environmental issues. These are key questions that humanity must answer.
Hiunko Prithvi Yatra will run until July 31 at 5:30 p.m. daily except Tuesdays at the Shilpee Theatre, Batisputali. There will be an additional show on Saturday at 1:00 p.m.