Literary theatre

It’s playtime: An Indian repertory company is making children’s theatre more inclusive

Gillo Repertory performs its adaptations of popular books for children in cities as well as villages.

Children’s theatre group Gillo Repertory, whose mascot is a squirrel, has a spirit as intrepid as its symbol. The theatre company has produced nuanced and colourful plays like Kyu Kyu Ladki and Hanuman ki Ramayan, and has taken theatre to children in semi-urban and rural areas with a tour of 20 performances in Karnataka.

Gillo was travelling with four different productions to Bengaluru, Mysuru, Chamraj Nagar, Heggadadevana Kote and Ninasam, a cultural organisation located in Heggodu (a village in Karnataka) from October 31 to November 16. The theatre group also performed at Gubbi, the hometown of widely acclaimed theatre director Gubbi Veranna, in a performance space named after the thespian.

Diverse audiences

According to Gillo’s co-founder Shaili Sathyu, the expense of staging shows and limited availability of platforms for children’s theatre mean that groups like hers wind up performing exclusively for audiences from privileged backgrounds. But as of the last four years, Gillo has been attempting to take theatre to diverse audiences by reserving a few seats of their performances for children associated with non-profit organisations. They charge Rs 10 to 20 per seat so that the performances are not entirely free and often get some benefactor to sponsor the children.

“There are a lot of under-served children in cities as well, and we wanted a mixed audience in the theatre, because I want to breed a sense of inclusion,” Sathyu said.

In the past, Gillo has performed in villages and small towns in West Bengal, Karnataka and Maharashtra, travelling with productions that do not require traditional stages and auditoriums. Sathyu recalled that the last time Gillo visited Birbhum in West Bengal, they performed in a makeshift tent that was made from a torn parachute. These experiences have pushed the group to do more for economically underprivileged children and find inspiration for new content from different parts of the country.

Hanuman ki Ramayan. Photo credit: Gillo Repertory
Hanuman ki Ramayan. Photo credit: Gillo Repertory

“We want to do at least 30% to 40% of our shows for children who cannot afford to see them,” Sathyu said. “Getting out of the city, and seeing how other people live in the country is very essential for us.”

Since these productions can be performed anywhere, they dismantle the hegemony of the stage and the intellectual and physical inaccessibility attached to theatre performances. Sathyu said that their aesthetic was motivated purely by practicality and the limitations that children grapple with. “Adults will travel 10 to 15 km to watch a play, but children cannot,” she said. “It’s not practical. They don’t have control on that. So we make plays that can go to the children.”

Alternate dreams

Sathyu wanted to publish children’s books when she was selected for an International Directors Seminar hosted by the International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People (known as ASSITEJ) in Germany in 2010. “The German experience gave me a window into the fact that theatre for children is a possibility,” Sathyu said. She started Gillo with a team of twelve performers. The team has now expanded to 27, including five trustees.

Although she is vocal about her group’s commitment to crafting plays for children of all ages, Sathyu is often asked when Gillo will start making plays for adults.

“People look at it as a linear progression; in the beginning of your career, you make plays for children and when you get the requisite experience, you start producing for adults,” Sathyu said. “But we are going deeper into exploring how we can work on theatre for children, that is more challenging for us and for the audience.” Gillo still harbours plans to venture into publishing children’s books and toys in the future.

The cover of 'Catch That Crocodile'.
The cover of 'Catch That Crocodile'.

Sathyu’s fascination for children’s literature is still reflected in the plays produced by Gillo, most of which are adapted from books. For instance Kyu Kyu Ladki, written and directed by Sathyu, was inspired by Mahasweta Devi’s story, The Why Why Girl. Devi’s story chronicles the adventures of curious and intrepid tribal girl Moyna, who can’t go to school but persistently questions the adults around her.

Gillo’s most successful production, Hanuman Ki Ramayan, is based on a book written by Devdutt Pattnaik. Adapted by Sangeet Natak Akademi Award-winner and traditional nautanki artist Ramdayal Sharma, the Hindi play was directed in 2012 by Sharma’s son Devendra. Hanuman ki Ramayan was one of the productions that Gillo took on its recent tour; another was Catch That Crocodile, adapted from Anushka Ravi Shankar’s eponymous book. Produced in basic, simple English, Sathyu said the play was made on a small budget and contained a lot of mime and slapstick, physical humour.

Catch That Crocodile performance. Photo credit: Gillo Repertory
Catch That Crocodile performance. Photo credit: Gillo Repertory

Two other non-verbal productions opened on the tour to Karnataka. Adapted from four Urdu plays written by Sathyu’s grandmother in the 1950s, the 20-minute productions traced a middle-aged man’s adventures in his own home. “He’s basically doing things around the house and he’s clumsy and doesn’t know how to do household chores,” Sathyu said. “The plays are very dated and contain some gender stereotypes, but I have altered that in the production.”

Gillo did not, surprisingly, include a Kannada play on the tour, apart from Catch That Crocodile, which features a few lines in the language. Hanuman ki Ramayan was in dense Hindi. “I know there’s this debate happening in Karnataka about the use of Hindi but we have performed this play in Bangalore before,” Sathyu said.

Gillo also travelled with a mobile library of 100 to 200 illustrated children’s books that were sourced from different parts of the world. “It’s our love for books and stories which we want to share,” she said. “If a performer sits with ten children and communicates with books using pictures and illustrations, some interaction can be started.”

Thespians and new audiences

Sathyu said the tour is the first step in connecting audiences for children’s theatre with performers. Although young audiences are eager and receptive, she points out that theatre meant exclusively for children is still a rarity in most places. “In smaller spaces, sometimes, we get a really thirsty audience so they come with a different purpose and motivation,” she said. “They just want to see something. They don’t have a choice.”

Sathyu believes that children make a forgiving and generous audience, which makes performing for them a rewarding experience. “They learn something new, they ask questions and they get confused. You can see that some questions have been inspired in their mind by watching your play.”

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content BY 

Putting the patient first - insights for hospitals to meet customer service expectations

These emerging solutions are a fine balance between technology and the human touch.

As customers become more vocal and assertive of their needs, their expectations are changing across industries. Consequently, customer service has gone from being a hygiene factor to actively influencing the customer’s choice of product or service. This trend is also being seen in the healthcare segment. Today good healthcare service is no longer defined by just qualified doctors and the quality of medical treatment offered. The overall ambience, convenience, hospitality and the warmth and friendliness of staff is becoming a crucial way for hospitals to differentiate themselves.

A study by the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions in fact indicates that good patient experience is also excellent from a profitability point of view. The study, conducted in the US, analyzed the impact of hospital ratings by patients on overall margins and return on assets. It revealed that hospitals with high patient-reported experience scores have higher profitability. For instance, hospitals with ‘excellent’ consumer assessment scores between 2008 and 2014 had a net margin of 4.7 percent, on average, as compared to just 1.8 percent for hospitals with ‘low’ scores.

This clearly indicates that good customer service in hospitals boosts loyalty and goodwill as well as financial performance. Many healthcare service providers are thus putting their efforts behind: understanding constantly evolving customer expectations, solving long-standing problems in hospital management (such as long check-out times) and proactively offering a better experience by leveraging technology and human interface.

The evolving patient

Healthcare service customers, who comprise both the patient and his or her family and friends, are more exposed today to high standards of service across industries. As a result, hospitals are putting patient care right on top of their priorities. An example of this in action can be seen in the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. In July 2015, the hospital launched a ‘Smart OPD’ system — an integrated mobile health system under which the entire medical ecosystem of the hospital was brought together on a digital app. Patients could use the app to book/reschedule doctor’s appointments and doctors could use it to access a patient’s medical history, write prescriptions and schedule appointments. To further aid the process, IT assistants were provided to help those uncomfortable with technology.

The need for such initiatives and the evolving nature of patient care were among the central themes of the recently concluded Abbott Hospital Leadership Summit. The speakers included pundits from marketing and customer relations along with leaders in the healthcare space.

Among them was the illustrious speaker Larry Hochman, a globally recognised name in customer service. According to Mr. Hochman, who has worked with British Airways and Air Miles, patients are rapidly evolving from passive recipients of treatment to active consumers who are evaluating their overall experience with a hospital on social media and creating a ‘word-of-mouth’ economy. He talks about this in the video below.


As the video says, with social media and other public platforms being available today to share experiences, hospitals need to ensure that every customer walks away with a good experience.

The promise gap

In his address, Mr. Hochman also spoke at length about the ‘promise gap’ — the difference between what a company promises to deliver and what it actually delivers. In the video given below, he explains the concept in detail. As the gap grows wider, the potential for customer dissatisfaction increases.


So how do hospitals differentiate themselves with this evolved set of customers? How do they ensure that the promise gap remains small? “You can create a unique value only through relationships, because that is something that is not manufactured. It is about people, it’s a human thing,” says Mr. Hochman in the video below.


As Mr. Hochman and others in the discussion panel point out, the key to delivering a good customer experience is to instil a culture of empathy and hospitality across the organisation. Whether it is small things like smiling at patients, educating them at every step about their illness or listening to them to understand their fears, every action needs to be geared towards making the customer feel that they made the correct decision by getting treated at that hospital. This is also why, Dr. Nandkumar Jairam, Chairman and Group Medical Director, Columbia Asia, talked about the need for hospitals to train and hire people with soft skills and qualities such as empathy and the ability to listen.

Striking the balance

Bridging the promise gap also involves a balance between technology and the human touch. Dr. Robert Pearl, Executive Director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, who also spoke at the event, wrote about the example of Dr. Devi Shetty’s Narayana Health Hospitals. He writes that their team of surgeons typically performs about 900 procedures a month which is equivalent to what most U.S. university hospitals do in a year. The hospitals employ cutting edge technology and other simple innovations to improve efficiency and patient care.

The insights gained from Narayana’s model show that while technology increases efficiency of processes, what really makes a difference to customers are the human touch-points. As Mr. Hochman says, “Human touch points matter more because there are less and less of them today and are therefore crucial to the whole customer experience.”


By putting customers at the core of their thinking, many hospitals have been able to apply innovative solutions to solve age old problems. For example, Max Healthcare, introduced paramedics on motorcycles to circumvent heavy traffic and respond faster to critical emergencies. While ambulances reach 30 minutes after a call, the motorcycles reach in just 17 minutes. In the first three months, two lives were saved because of this customer-centric innovation.

Hospitals are also looking at data and consumer research to identify consumer pain points. Rajit Mehta, the MD and CEO of Max Healthcare Institute, who was a panelist at the summit, spoke of the importance of data to understand patient needs. His organisation used consumer research to identify three critical areas that needed work - discharge and admission processes for IPD patients and wait-time for OPD patients. To improve wait-time, they incentivised people to book appointments online. They also installed digital kiosks where customers could punch in their details to get an appointment quickly.

These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the marketing team and not by the editorial staff.