Under the visionary principal John Mason, St James’ School pioneered full-scale musicals involving pupils in Kolkata almost 30 years ago, proving the huge pedagogical benefits of educational theatre. Other institutions then emulated them, starting a movement whose members stood much above all others belonging to the run-of-the-assembly-line schooling system. Having followed these since inception, I can only sing the praises of the Jacobean contribution, culminating in their fourteenth production, Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”, last month.

Selecting an all-time great rock opera won half the battle (a reference to the storyline). No local adult company has attempted it – imagine the guts of a school to do so. The director, Sumit Lai Roy, contemporized the plot to make it more immediate for us, in a post-World War III nuclear armageddon triggered by a rogue missile (shades of North Korea or our own subcontinent). In the aftermath, the rich escape underground whereas the poor face environmental meltdown on the surface. Pink’s father, who had originally died in World War II, goes to fight in the consequent rebellion, leaving his son a time capsule to reconstruct history. The key ingredients of this conflict scenario could have been communicated more clearly for audience comprehension, and with less repetitive image projections. But our future world trapped in its advanced cyber technology got across.

Not sacrificing anything in the original double album, the execution was amazing. Top honours go to the live singers and musicians conducted by Subhagata Singha, who did the right educative thing by blooding schoolboys instead of hiring professionals. They delivered the complex score without a false note. The dancers excelled too, though Smriti Agarwal’s choreography for “Is There Anybody Out There?” and “Comfortably Numb” literalized the lyrics too much. Three cheers to the three Pinks at different ages – Aniruddha Das, Souti Mukhopadhyay and Caleb Gomes – for expressing the psychological alienation of “every boy”, as one actor observed. Nadia O’Brien (La Martiniere Girls) and Anushma Sinha (Mahadevi Birla World Academy) performed fluently as the journalist and Pink’s wife respectively. Not to forget the seasoned Betty Mathew as his mother, with her powerful vocals.

(From The Telegraph, 9 December 2017)