Fringe Box



Stage Dragon Review: Zindabad At the Mill Studio

Published on: 29 Apr, 2016
Updated on: 30 Apr, 2016

I have never been to the Mill Studio before, so I am glad that my first performance was the premiere run of the new play Zindabad by David Conville.

Set at the time of the partition of India into Pakistan and India, Zindabad is a compelling drama following the lives of Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and Europeans over a number of days.

Full use of the gangways meant the audience was drawn into the play from the very first moment.

Picture from the time of the Raj

Picture from the time of the Raj.

Clever use of lighting allowed the small set to be used as both the Harappa bungalow of Harry Lesseps and several areas of the Lawrencepur farm.

A very scary Yousuf Khan (Ranjit Krishnamma) told us that we were no longer Hindu, British, or Muslim but Pakistani. His demeanour left us in no doubt that sinister actions could come our way if we did not embrace the new country wholeheartedly.

Cleverly interspersed throughout the play were flim and voice clips from the actual time. Jena, Nehru and Mountbatten were shown giving speeches on what they thought was happening.

The playwright and actors have given us an insight into what was actually happening to the ordinary people during that time.

Mortimer Wheeler telling Betty Swami that he is going to get her out of Pakistan.

Mortimer Wheeler telling Betty Swami that he is going to get her out of Pakistan.

Against this backdrop of uncertainty, the archaeologists Wheeler (ably played by Frank Barrie) and Lesseps (Justin Butcher) had to arrange to repatriate their Sikh and Hindu staff to India whilst carrying on with their dig at Harappa.

Wheeler is based on the British archaeologist who was in charge of running the Indian Archaeological Survey at the time. Lesseps is of French / Hindu parentage and Butcher has the nuances spot on.

We were shown how Europeans in India lived, surrounded by servants, who in the main, were loyal to their employers. In the absence of Nicholas Lawrence(Andrew Wincott), his Muslim estate manager, Shah Muhammad(Antony Zaki) attempted to round up all the Hindu and Sikh servants and place them into the only slightly fortified area on the farm.

Sally Lawrence (Rebecca Johnson) gave an excellent performance as the neglected wife who had found a new love. At one point, I could see tears in her eyes. Yes, I was that close to the actors!

Sally Lawrence and Harry Lesseps having a tender moment.

Sally Lawrence and Harry Lesseps having a tender moment.

Betty Swami (Linda Thorson), an English woman married to a Hindu, was an interesting character, full of advice for the wayward wife Sally, but also hiding secrets of her own.

There were times when English was not used by the characters. As I didn’t understand what was said, I can’t comment that it was correct, but it enhanced rather than spoilt my enjoyment of the play. The interchange between Betty and Ali (Seelan Gunaseelan) left the audience in no doubt of what was going on.

Events came to a head when Yousuf came to the farmhouse, dishevelled and dispirited, to say he had lost control of his supporters. After this news, the stage is set for tragedy.

David Conville has written a wonderfully enjoyable play. I recommend this as a five star, good night out.

Zindabad is on at the Mill Studio, next to the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, until Saturday, May 7. Bookings can be made at the Yvonne Arnaud box office on 01483 440000 or click here for online booking.

Star rating 5

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