Rachael Wass

Theatre review: A Passage to India

Adapted from E. M. Forster’s 1924 novel, ‘A Passage to India’ hits the stage at the Liverpool Playhouse until Saturday 10th February. The play is both an exploration of tension and celebration of friendship between cultures, central to the pre-WWI colonial movement of the British Empire. Forster’s novel has been altered for stage by Simon Dormandy who has managed to condense an abundance of action packed scenes, into a production of reasonable length.

The story follows two Englishwomen as they travel across the world in the hopes to discover ‘the real India’, and not the cultural establishments that have been imported by the British as a result of colonialism. Together, Forster and Dormandy present the abhorrent view of the patronising and discriminatory attitude of the British Empire which is a spirit still alive today. A key question that arises from the characters in both the novel and the play is whether an Indian and an Englishman can be friends: an outdated concept for many in the twenty-first-century but demonstrates an important discussion for respect across all cultures.

The play is a collaboration with theatre company Simple8 who throughly presented their aims of bold acting and conveying big ideas on stage. Huge landscapes of mountains and caves were portrayed through minimalist props and complex layers of simplistic actions leaving an intensely clever presence on stage. Simplistic backdrops were sufficient in retelling the story’s whereabouts but were made even more enchanting by beautiful vibrant colours that peppered the set through clothes and drapes and the powdered paint that is pictured on the production’s advertisement. Every action on stage was stripped back giving the play a controlled yet relaxed feeling and the whole production was fluid and enjoyable to watch.

‘A Passage to India’ differed from many current plays with the incorporation of live music visible on stage. Composed and performed by Kuljit Bhamra, the soundtrack that accompanied the acting brought the whole production to life and added an extra dimension to the actions that were being performed. Musical interludes filled silent scenes, while handmade sound effects added an extra element of authenticity to the play.

A Passage to India’ encapsulates the complexity of culture and the beauty of ones we are not familiar with, while still being relevant just under 100 years since it was originally written.

Tickets are available at the Playhouse and students ages 18-25 are able to purchase these with a student membership for £5 on the link below:

https://www.everymanplayhouse.com/yep

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