A Passage To India
A Passage To India at The Churchill Theatre:
A Passage To India is an adaptation of the novel by E.M Forster. It is set in Imperial India and looks at the English and Indians living side by side. It tells of Mrs Moore, who befriends Aziz, both of whom, against many protestations believe that Indians and English can be friends. A trip to some mystical caves, with a inexplicable echo, along with Adela who is keen to learn more about the real India. However what happens in the caves alters all of their lives forever.
The play is slow to get going, taking time to set the scene of conflicting religions, cultures and familial relationships. It is only just before the interval and the trip to the caves that the story itself gets moving. Due to the focus on the time and place many of the characters aren’t developed and rely on stereotypes. The English are either resolutely against being friends with Indians and dislike Aziz’s friendship with the likes of Adela or they are seeking out friendships. The only Indian within the cast that the audience really sees is Aziz himself and this also misses a chance to develop interesting relationships. There is no grey in this show in terms of characters.
One of the strengths of A Passage To India were the directorial choices by Sebastian Armesto and Simon Dormandy. The stage was fairly bare, just with drapes or hessian type fabric hung at appropriate moments. Lighting bars were purposely left exposed and props simply dismissed in favour of the imagination. The moments where members of the cast were used as an ensemble to chant together, to become an echo and even to convey things such as the elephant or a carriage were done remarkably well and really interesting. The moment when the ensemble are in the caves, chanting and turning into the echo itself was not only a clever way of putting across the feeling that Mrs Moore was experiencing but also helping in doing the same to the audience. I would have liked to have seen more of this technique throughout rather than used as sparingly as it was.
The cast did a fine job and I particularly enjoyed Liz Crowther as Mrs Moore who transformed from inquisitive English lady into near madness. Phoebe Pryce as Adela was nicely wide eyed about India and Asif Khan as Aziz beautifully played his tenderness and naivety, quickly developing into a man struggling to overcome a betrayal.
Overall this play is an interesting piece but it needed a pacier first act and more developed characters and relationships. This combined with the strong physicality presented already would have enhanced A Passage To India and my enjoyment of it.
To find out more about the show and book tickets visit the Churchill Theatre’s website.