“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.
“this spirited show in London Bridge is going to bring a smile to a good many people’s faces over the next few weeks”
Oscar Wilde’s 1887 short story is given a 21st century makeover at one of the capital’s leading theatres for young audiences.
Diplomat Hiram Otis is posted to England with his rabble family. They rent an old Gothic mansion that turns out to have a resident ghost, one Sir Simon Canterville. Attempts to spook the Otis’s by Sir Simon are ignored by the streetwise New Yorkers and this ghost who has been looking for a resting place for over three hundred years is in utter despair, until baby of the family Virginia, takes him seriously, listens to him and helps solve the riddle that will allow him to rest in peace.
This tale is presented with the aid of illusion and magic, Sir Simon having his head under his arm, objects appearing and disappearing, flying furniture and even a body being sawn in half. A simple set (Rosie Elnile) consisting of a blood stained carpet, two large tables and a model house symbolising the mansion are all utilised to the maximum and moved about with an impressive slickness. Lighting (Prema Mehta) is immensely impressive, the windows in the model house all lighting up and the illusions neatly disguised.
This is a highly amusing adaptation, every neatly constructed line seems to contain no words with less than six syllables and the characterisations are pitched perfectly for a young audience, with the humour appreciated greatly by the children, without it being childish. This is a thoughtfully directed piece by Justin Audibert, a huge amount of energy has been injected into the play and so much of the action is delivered with a real flourish.
All the cast are strong, the twin boys, played by girls (Rose-Marie Christian & Mae Munuo) always in unison, Nathaniel Wade enthusiastically playing elder son Washington who is inventing a hat containing an umbrella and Safiyya Ingar charming as green fingered Virginia. Maple syrup loving Dad (Nana Amoo-Gottfried) and interior designed obsessed Mum (Beth Cordingly) are spot on with their relationship and handling of their slightly troublesome offspring. Paul McEwan has a ball playing Sir Simon, I was concerned that the way he slurs a lot of his lines could make it difficult for youngsters, who are hanging on his every word, to decipher what he’s saying. Annie Fitzmaurice as the Scottish housemaid is a positive delight, it was like lifting Private Frazer from Dad’s Army into a female body, all doom, gloom and threats of varicose veins, she was hilarious.
The pace slackened a little in the second act, but the packed audience, consisting mainly of children, absolutely loved it. The young lad sitting next to me rushed back from the interval and announced that he couldn’t wait to see what would happen next.
With Unicorn’s magic and a ghost, I think that this spirited show in London Bridge is going to bring a smile to a good many people’s faces over the next few weeks and is perfect material for all the family.