by Neil D’Souza.
Watford Palace Theatre 20 Clarendon Road WD17 1JZ To 24 October 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 24 Oct 2.30pm.
Captioned 22 Oct.
Runs 1hr 45min One interval.
Tickets: 01923 225671.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 21 October.
Familiar themes given a warmly-developed new local habitation.
Dislocations and divisions are the stuff of drama, so there’s plenty that’s dramatic about Neil D’Souza’s new play. Alan, in mid-life, returns to his childhood Indian home, of course finding he’s no longer a natural part of it. Being given a book his father wrote – the only copy of a work sharing the play’s title – sets Alan, and us, off on stories from an earlier generation’s childhood.
Here are more divisions; not only between generations but in memories of a caste-conscious school society where the high-caste, wealthy student won every prize, even when he didn’t win the race. And humiliations at the hands of the school’s Cook and Gardener, whose vindictive underhand ways are captured with slimy precision.
The acting is very strong in a production which, some Catholic devices (Crucifix, statue of Virgin) apart, is minimalist – even the tall columns of later scenes stand behind the bare space where Shona Morris’s movement enhances the cast’s creation of smart hotel-room or restaurant, chauffeur-driven car (Alan’s business status magnified by the distance behind the driver’s seat), Confessional and school-room across the generations in Brigid Larmour’s swift-moving production.
D’Souza and Ravin J Ganatra’s Alan and adult Jacob carry the main emotional weight, but there’s vital enjoyment to be found in the cast’s sheer skill at playing other characters. Mitesh Soni shifts between contrasting individuals within a single move, at a pace a snappy film-editor would find hard to match, while Clara Indrani switches in the instant of a perception from an idealised vision to a down-to-earth schoolteacher.
Modern Mumbai and mid-century Mangalore contrast colonial India moving towards independence and a country that has ‘come up’ in economic terms, without removing inequalities. And the country that has embraced modern capitalism with its call centres can as easily be abandoned by commerce, as Alan abandons women in or around his life, fobbing-off his old aunt with the present of a costly coffee-machine while he stays emotionally disengaged on a flying visit.
Marshalling a wide-view subject through a few specifics is difficult, and can take some following, but this is an honest drama, immaculately presented.
Alan/Simon Fernandez: Neil D’Souza.
Older Jacob/Ghalib/Vicar: Ravin J Ganatra.
Hanna/Cook/Mrs Pereira/Tiger: Clara Indrani.
Young Jacob/Alice: Goldy Notay.
Daniel/Father Alvarez: Mitesh Soni.
Director: Brigid Larmour.
Designer: Rebecca Brower.
Lighting: Prema Mehta.
Sound/Composer: Arun Ghosh.
Movement/Associate Director: Shona Morris.
Dialect coach: Helen Ashton.
Assistant director: Scott Le Crass.