Watching this collaboration between the West Yorkshire Playhouse and BBC Radio Leeds held extra significance for me as we are due to visit India for the first time in November. I have followed the BBC season on the 70th anniversary of Partition with great interest as it’s a subject I knew very little about. Thanks to my TV viewing (and copious reading in preparation for our travels) I had a little knowledge before seeing the play.
Using the marriage of a Sikh and a Muslim and presenting us with the guilt and family splits that the impending event inspires, the audience is shown how the events of the past still reverberate into modern life. We see how on both sides, the families of the couple struggle to let go of the past and how this can all be directly attributed to Partition.
Darren Kuppan played Ranjit (the groom to be), Salim (his brother-in-law to be) and Rajpal (Ranjit’s Grandfather) and managed all three roles with great aplomb. When in the guise of the Grandfather, Darren used his voice and demeanour to become the old man and in this guise related the horrific events in which all of the women from his village (including his mother) submitted to be killed by their husbands and male relatives rather than succumb to the horror that was heading for their homes.
The playing of multi-roles by Balvinder Sopal, Dominic Gately and Darren Kuppan leads to some welcome comic relief in the last leg of the play.
The play was staged and performed as it would be for a radio performance and as such lent a fascinating insight into the clever use of props to invoke a soundscape. Particularly interesting was the use of a pair of marigolds to mimic the sound of a flapping pigeon – it was such an accurate sound. Actors read from scripts and it was impressive to see them in the middle of an impassioned speech whilst simultaneously remembering to hold their script away from the microphone as they turned a page. I found it added another dimension being able to see how the stage manager had to follow the script so closely in order to be able to insert the right noises at the right time.
A question and answers session was held after the performance and the director, Nick Ahad, explained how he had mined documentaries on Partition in order to make sure the stories he used were real. Hearing this after some of the harrowing tales related in the play was a stark reminder that these atrocities were part of life for millions during that terrible episode in our histories.
During the Q&A it was commented upon that so few children are taught about Partition as part of a history syllabus and even suggestions of rolling out this production to schools – an excellent idea in my opinion.
I found the performance extremely moving and the small moments of light relief and humour perfectly balanced. Partition is an event that we should not forget; understanding our history helps us understand where we are in the present and work out where we should all be headed together in the future.
This review was written by Hazel Millichamp as part of our South Leeds Goes To The Playhouse partnership. If you would like FREE tickets to see a show at West Yorkshire Playhouse please get in touch and tell us why you should get the tickets. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.