Every now and then a gem of a show appears that you hope and pray more people get the opportunity to see. Trident Moon, the new show from workshOPERA and the Finborough, proves you don’t need West End resources to create great theatre. This is one of the tensest, more challenging shows being performed right now, you owe it to yourselves to get out there and see it. Now.
Writer Anusree Roy is the driving force behind Trident Moon’s success – this is a script of imperial quality. It’s 1947, and the threat of the Indian Partition hangs over this play like a guillotine. With the country split in two, Hindus and Muslims are at the centre of a religious war, and women are being tortured, raped and killed. Trident Moon follows a truckload of nine women from both sides, as they make the perilous journey to New India, and freedom. Hindu Alia (Sakuntala Ramanee), a grieving mother, rules the roost with a gun and a snarl. Her captives are three Muslim women – Rani (Gita Gupta), and parent and child Pakhi (Sejal Keshwala) and Heera (Roshni Rathore).
This could have been a fascinating narrative by itself but, as ever with the locked room drama, there are some time bombs in play. Sonali (Medhavi Patel) is on the cusp of giving birth, Bani (Chandni Mistry) is suffering from a bullet wound, and when Clive Keene enters the fray as the homicidal Lovely Raj Singh a gun is going to be fired – it’s just a matter of when and where. Roy skilfully keeps all these elements in the air, throwing us the occasional glance at the next major problem, before turning every situation on it’s head. It was impossible not to be hooked, and there were gasps and sighs of relief in equal measure. It’s also horrendously difficult to watch in places – an improvised operation threatens to turn stomachs, whilst a climactic search scene was as challenging a moment I have had as an audience member.
With many actors jammed into such a small space, Director Anna Pool can’t exactly embellish this production visually, without detracting from the gritty, violent nature it should have. This meant there were a few staging and sight line issues, one of the risks of playing in traverse. That being said, she has brought some exceptional performances from her actors. Ramanee comes close to breathtaking at times, whilst Patel treads the fine line of introducing comedic moments into a squirming drama, pulling it off every time. My favourite performance came from Natasha Ali as Samaiya who, though she is introduced later on into the story, brings such a lovely warmth to every scene that she is the beating heart of this tale. On a more critical note, Gupta, Keshwala and Mistry can’t bring enough to their characters due to limitations in the text, and though Rathore is very convincing as a six year old, suspension of disbelief was taken too far when you discover the actor is taller than her mother.
Trident Moon is one of the most honest, brutal but enlightening shows you could see this year. A tense snapshot of human life, set against the terrors of world tragedy, this is a challenging production that will leave you with more questions than answers, but in the best possible way. There is evident skill in its direction, performances and technical prowess, but Roy is key here. She is a playwright on the verge of a bright, bright future. And we are all the better for it.
Trident Moon is playing The Finborough Theatre until 18th October, see the Finborough Theatre website.