Review: A Passage to India
Image courtesy Tower Theatre
Dr Aziz : Rahul Singh
Cyril Fielding : Simon Lee
Professor Narayan Godbole : Adnan Kapadia
Adela Quested : Rebecca Allan
Mrs Moore : Alison Liney
Ronny Heaslop : Robin Taylor
Miss Derrek : Sara Odeen-Isbister
Hamidullah : Yasir Senna
Mahmood Ali / Mohammed Latif : Menesh Patel
McBryde : Paul Willcocks
Das : Herschel Pant
Mr Turton : Simon Taylor
Mrs Turton : Janet South
Major Callender : Matthew Ibbotson
Amritario/Anthony : Shilpan Patel
Ralph/Subaltern : Gilbert Young
Rafi/ Punkah Wallah : Chitranshu Mahajan
Musicians : Mahesh Parkar, Devina Vekaria, Amiya Bhatia
It's 1920s Chandrapore, and Adela Quested has accompanied her future mother-in-law, Mrs Moore, to India before committing to marriage with her son.
Determined to see the 'real India' and shocked by the prejudiced attitudes they encounter at the 'club', the ladies readily accept when friendly Dr Aziz suggests an outing to the Marabar caves … after which fateful day nothing is ever the same again.
Written in 2002 for theatre company Shared Experience, Martin Sherman's compelling adaptation of E.M Forster's classic delivers this rich, multi-layered story through an imagistic theatrical language, in which the real and imagined often collide and the mysticism of India sings.
E. M. Forster's 1924 novel, reworked here in a stage adaptation by Martin Sherman, is the latest ambitious production from Stoke Newington's Tower Theatre Company.
This is an organisation that apparently pays little heed to the kind of artistic anxieties that might plague other companies and prevent them from tackling exacting and complex work of this kind.
In A Passage to India, we find ourselves in the midst of the later period of the British Raj on the Indian subcontinent in an enterprise requiring a substantial cast - including musicians who provide authentically atmospheric music that ably augments and enhances the proceedings.
The story centres on Dr Aziz (played by Rahul Singh) an Indian Muslim doctor who is drawn into the company of two British women who have recently arrived in India from England.
Adela Quested (Rebecca Allan) is keen to learn of the 'real' India whilst trying to decide whether she will marry the local magistrate who is the son of Mrs Moore (Alison Liney).
Mrs Moore first meets Dr Aziz in a mosque and the pair quickly strike-up a friendship.
But later, when the amenable physician offers to show Adela some renowned local caves, he unwittingly instigates a series of events which land him in court facing trial.
Even with a large acting area at her disposal, director Simona Hughes is nonetheless faced with the considerable challenge of delivering multiple and varied locations, from the disturbing darkness of caves to the formality of the interior of a court room.
That imposes constraints on Max Batty's set design, but he neatly side-steps the restrictions by employing a simple device consisting of ochre rugs or mats that cover the entire acting area, with similar counterparts adorning the walls.
The design is suitably symbolic given the locational setting and the dominant colour is certainly suggestive of a land far removed and culturally disconnected from the verdant pastures of England.
In spite of a running time that is a quarter hour short of the 3 hour mark (including interval) and constantly-changing locations for sometimes rather brief scenes, Ms Hughes's fluid and considered production never loses momentum, flowing pretty-well effortlessly between the many story segments.
Given the lack of scenery or other means to describe locations precisely, actors sometimes represent objects - for example in a cave scene where they become boulders and ledges.
And they stand in for an elephant too, which prompted some giggling from the audience, but perhaps providing a deliberate touch of light relief in an otherwise meaty and serious drama.
However, the production as a whole turns out to be totally absorbing with a compelling story that reaches a crescendo in a powerful scene where Rahul Singh's well-defined and authentic Dr Aziz clarifies the real meaning of the play's title.
Mr Singh is well-supported by a number of impressive individual performances including Simon Lee as the liberal-minded Cyril Fielding.
And Rebecca Allan delivers a convincing portrayal of Adela whose search for a husband becomes entangled with the cultural divide between the British and the Indian population.
Undaunted by a storyline covering complex themes and a challenging environment to describe, Tower Theatre once again demonstrate their ability to pull-off a thoughtful and dramatically satisfying production.
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