Haven’t we heard this story enough times now? Lisa White’s one-woman show, in which she performs material from an interview with an elderly relative, tells of a woman growing up in colonial India. It’s a well-worn (and now slightly uncomfortable) perspective of imperial cosiness – and despite its sincerity and warmth, this is an underwhelming and soporific tale.
The familiar elements are all here. Millie grows up in a house filled with servants, whom she remembers and awkwardly impersonates as bizarre and mysterious creatures. She leaves her distant and harsh parents to become a nurse, and is at first overcome by the sights, sounds and smells of the hospital. There she tends to, and falls in love with, a handsome, sensitive British soldier. The details may all be true and particular, but this is quite a stock story of a British Raj experience.
This might not have mattered so much had the production been more concerned with Millie’s characterisation. At the end, a tape of her 80 year-old voice is played, and suddenly the words crackle with a bit of life. White has played it safe, however, and doesn’t attempt to reproduce the frailty or speech-patterns of her older relative, instead delivering her lines with the assuredness of her own age.
The real problem with Lavender Junction is the way in which it indulges an insidious nostalgia for the stories of Britain’s colonial past. However tenderly the story is told, it’s an overfamiliar perspective that keeps the experiences of Indians distant. It panders to a desire to recall the ‘good old days’, at the exclusion of a fuller confrontation of imperial paternalism.
The last years of the British Raj are a complicated patchwork – but this piece doesn’t add anything to the picture.
Lavender Junction is at C Nova (Venue 145) until 25 August. For more information and tickets, visit https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/lavender-junction