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Tag Archive | "Paul Bazely"

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Review: Drawing The Line, Hampstead Theatre

Posted on 10 December 2013 by Jake Orr

Drawing The Line
How do you carve up a country that inhabits multiple religions, languages, culture and opposing beliefs? Do you attempt a fair justice, distributing the land equally, or do you justify a border based on population density and religious spread? Howard Brenton’s new play Drawing The Line at the Hampstead Theatre chronicles the partition and independence of India and Pakistan from the British Empire across five weeks in 1947. The play focuses on three of the prominent figures – Jawaharlal Nehru (Silas Carson), the leader of the Indian Independence Movement; Muhammad Ali Jinnah (Paul Bazely), the leader of the All-India Muslim League; and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Tanveer Ghani), the religious figure who became an iconic figure for civil rights and freedom movements. Brenton’s play examines the fragile and fraught relationships these figures held at the turn of India’s freedom from British rule.

Cyril Radcliffe, played sympathetically by Tom Beard, is handed the task of drawing the border between the new Pakistani and Indian countries, chosen for his innocence towards India, having never set foot further than Italy. Slicing this mammoth country and dividing its people is no easy task: it spills blood with every movement of a line upon a map, and here lies the driving force of Brenton’s play. The reckless but unavoidable dismantling of the British Empire is shown in shameful and brutal force as independence is returned.

As a play Drawing The Line makes for a fascinating education into the brutalism with which we, as an empire and ruling force of so many colonies, discarded our interests in foreign affairs, wiping our hands clean of the imprisonment we had adopted across the world. The political and religious unrest lies heavy within the hearts of the Hindu and Muslim faiths that make up the majority of India, and this becomes the focus point within Brenton’s play, in Radcliffe’s inability to divide a country that tears at itself through imbalance. Words are threatened where weapons are void, beliefs colliding with deadly precision. Howard Davies’s direction is sharp and quick-fire alongside Brenton’s writing: but where this play crackles with knowledge that should be learned, it simmers with dramatisation, never quite finding its pace to ignite beyond a history lesson.

Tim Hatley’s India-inspired set contains the action within an iron-like cage, the actors almost becoming birds for decoration, unable to truly take flight. Nevertheless, it evokes India with every scene change aided by Rick Fisher’s superb lighting and Nicki Wells’s beautiful music. As with any Hampstead Theatre show there’s no expense spared on the production values, and whilst Hatley’s set contains a certain static quality to the play, it does allow for a rather fiery finale. Here lies the ultimate issue with Brenton’s play: for all its richness in history and conflict of religion, the fiery tempers that burn beneath each of his characters never have a chance to ignite. Drawing The Line is a fascinating look at the dismantling of India and the shame that paints British history across the world (something we are still paying for, and justly so); but it relies too heavily upon the ingrained history and tension of religion to offer the dramatisation, rather than finding the narrative pull of character tension and conflict. It’s no mean feat to pull a narrative out of history books, and Brenton certainly has done well to offer such richness in the world he creates through language and dialogue. Yet for me it misses the mark, sizzling in the second act when it could really show the impact and continual unrest India and Pakistan face because of the ‘scribbles’ thrown onto a map to separate two countries. There’s a moment when Ghani’s Gandhi says that it’s like taking a knife to the belly of India, slicing it open: this painful metaphor is exactly the tension that Drawing The Line lacks.

Within the cast there’s some fine delivery, especially in the crackling Lady Mountbatten (played by Lucy Black) and in Brendan Patricks’s Christopher Beaumont, alongside Nikesh Patel’s fiery Rao VD Ayer. Whilst Beard’s torment as Cyril Radcliffe finds itself towards the latter half of the play, he feels surely underused in the first half, which is a shame. Davies offers crisp direction to the cast, but Bazely’s Jinnah and Carson’s Nehru never really take flight until their emotional speeches at the end, partly through the contained action and direction they’re given.

Curious too is the leaning of Brenton’s writing upon an Indian Independence Movement perspective, which includes a fleeting love interest between Nehru and Lady Mountbatten, whereas the Muslim viewpoint is a simple narrative that is never expanded beyond the necessary dialogue.

Whilst Drawing The Line fails to soar, it does offer a concise and fascinating examination into the division of India and Pakistan. A reminder that we learn so little of the history – and often devastation – we as the British Nation have caused throughout the centuries, something that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Brenton’s play may not fulfil but it certainly deserves a nod of appreciation and attendance if you want to brush up on your history.

Drawing The Line is playing at the Hampstead Theatre until 11 January 2014. For more information and tickets, see the Hampstead Theatre website.

Jake Orr

Jake Orr

Jake is the Artistic Director and Founder of A Younger Theatre. He is a freelance writer and blogger, a theatre marketer and a digital producer. He is also Co-Curator of Dialogue.

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Review: Really Old, Like Forty Five

Posted on 25 February 2010 by Jake Orr

The Cottesloe Theatre is steadily becoming one of those spaces that I admire. It has a life of its own, despite being part of the National Theatre. Some people will frown upon the work that comes into it, for it is bold, challenging and often gambling with new work that is a far cry from the NT brand of entertainment for the people. The Cottesloe Theatre for me is almost restoring my faith in the work of the National Theatre, proving at times it can dance the thin line of experiementation and throw caution to the wind at it’s faithful audiences.

Really Old, Like Forty Five is one of those pieces that the National has put their faith in – with a big risk. It is an absurd new play by Tamsin Oglesby, charting the lives of a family as they plod through old age and dementia. This might seem like a conventional play on the surface, but when you throw in a medical company whose aim is to rid the streets of old people, facilitating uthensia and attempting to cure memory loss with the use of a robot nurse that has animastic qualities, you begin to see what an absurd play this really is.

Here lies the problem. This mix of robotic nurses, dementia curing pills, and a focus on a family attempting to fight through memory loss is possibly a little far fetched to comprehend. Or maybe it is novel approach to a hard topic? Either way there is no escaping the fact that this play is absurd, and this of course means that either you will love it, or hate it.

I couldn’t help but to feel Really Old, Like Forty Five is a mix of a Doctor Who episode with characters from The Catherine Tate Show attempting to pull off a NHS advert for dementia.

Oglesby’s play juxtaposes the medical trials against that of the real life, and if you can look beyond the surreal aspects of the play – there is a message that rings loud and clear. At what age do we get old? When is it time to stop pretending we are young?… and how far do the medical trials of new treatments go in order to gain reputation or profit?

Anna Mackin certainly faces the play with a great force in her direction. She tackles the subject matter straight on, switching the action between the various themes and directions of the text effortlessly so that there isn’t a moment for the audience to get lost on the tangent. Her insight into the play even allows her for some slightly surreal moments involving the use of Liz Brotherston’s stage design and video work by Fifty Nine Productions Ltd, which take form of a giant tortoise and a baby flying through the air. Odd aye?

Whilst the play may take an unusual approach to getting a point across, there is no denying that this dark comedy does feature some superb acting from the cast. Judy Parfitt as the steady dementia form of old woman Lyn is one of the key figures in Really Old, Like Forty Five. She shows a harrowing display of emotion during scenes where she believes things that aren’t true because her memory is failing her. Equally her inability to understand what is going on, makes for brilliant one liners allowing for the comedy to arise.

The Olivier Awarded Marcia Warren as the dotty Alice brings such a charm and wit to her acting capturing the heart of growing old and still managing to survive with vigor. Oglesby’s portrayal of these older women are at times immensely sad, yet glowing with warmth and joy. Michela Meazza as Mimi the robotic nurse is beautiful. She moves with such robotic and structured manners that when combined with the sound effects, I quite simply forgot she was even human (is that possible?).

The rest of the cast featuring Lucy May Barker, Paul Bazely, Tanya Franks, Gawn Grainger, Thomas Jordan and Paul Ritter each bring with them the absurd characters of Oglesby’s play to different ends, but still achieving the desired affects.

Really Old, Like Forty Five is a tough play to comprehend. Oglesby’s setting of the play at times outweighs the subject matter of growing old and dementia – yet equally she has managed to create a common worry within the everyday person and completely turn it on it’s head. We often see in the media the use of clinical trials for various drugs, and countless times we have heard of courtroom trials around uthensia, Really Old, Like Forty Five tackles these subjects in an absurd manner. Often hitting the theme with poignant emotion, other times slightly missing the point by the very nature of the play.

The outcome is really down to the spectator. If you’re a regular at the National Theatre, I might suspect that you have a certain idea of what to expect from the play. Well – you won’t quite see what you expected. Really Old, Like Forty Five is a compelling approach to dramatising the worries that we all have, but to be sure – watch some Doctor Who episodes before you go, just to get into the spirit of it!

Really Old, Like Forty Five is playing in the Cottesloe Theatre at the National Theatre until 20th April 2010. Booking in person, over the phone or indeed as always through the National Theatre’s website.

Jake Orr

Jake Orr

Jake is the Artistic Director and Founder of A Younger Theatre. He is a freelance writer and blogger, a theatre marketer and a digital producer. He is also Co-Curator of Dialogue.

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