Santi & Naz
Cage – The Vaults
Reviewed – 28th January 2020
“There’s a lot of charm in the storytelling – the playfulness and joy in the girls friendship is particularly lovely – but the script can only skate across the surface of these turbulent waters”
1947 was a tumultuous year in sub-continental history. India became independent, and partition forced the migration of over ten million Indian Muslims to Pakistan, during which, millions were slaughtered. It is against this backdrop that we watch the friendship of two young girls play out. Santi and Naz are best friends from the same village; they play together and share confidences as best friends do. But as they grow up, their difference – Santi is Sikh and Naz is Muslim – is highlighted by the political and religious turmoil playing out around them. At the same time, Naz’s increasing awareness of her attraction to her friend – even as she is betrothed to an older man from outside the village – provides its own drama.
This is a lot to cover in an hour long piece, and as a result, none of the thematic strands can be explored with any depth. There’s a lot of charm in the storytelling – the playfulness and joy in the girls friendship is particularly lovely – but the script can only skate across the surface of these turbulent waters. Although accessible to everyone, the play will be richer for those with some knowledge of this history; Rose-Marie Christian (Santi) is splendidly funny as she impersonates Gandhi and Jinnah, for example, but funnier if these figures are already present in the mind’s eye. In contrast, the true horror of the trains full of murdered migrants is impossible to convey with a single reference, and, despite a writerly attempt to address this through analogy (the decapitation of a donkey in the village) it still seemed superficial and somewhat grating. Similarly, the fleeting moments addressing Naz’s attraction to her friend left this reviewer wanting more.
The luxury of a longer time slot would iron out a lot of the problems . Guleraana Mir and Afshan D’Souza-Lodhi’s script takes poetic flight at certain points, but these moments didn’t really have time to breathe. Similarly, the sketched-in movement sequences have the potential to be much more fully realised and really give the texture that they only teased at here. This evening’s performance felt like the beginning of a creative journey, rather than the culmination of one, but one well worth continuing.
Reviewed by Andrea Wright
Photography by Steve Gregson