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A CurtainUp Review
A Passage to India
Passage to India Makes a Brief Visit to Bam

Lizzie Loveridge alerted me to Shared Experience's exciting page to stage translations of literary works. Their adaptation of E.M. Forster's Passage to India has made too brief a landing at BAM for me, or another CurtainUp critic to cover it -- and so, we refer you to Lizzie's review and production notes for the London production.

The cast at BAM: Antony Bunsee (Godbole), Alex Caan (Dr. Aziz), Maxwell Hutcheon (Turton/McBryde), Ranjit Krishnamma (Hamidullah), Rina Mahoney (Mrs. Turton/Miss Derek), Chris Nayak (Rafi/Das), William Osborne (Fielding), Gary Pillai, (Mahmoud Ali), Simon Scardifield (Ronny/Ralph), Susan Tracy (Mrs. Moore) and Fenella Woolgar (Adela Quested). The production runs as part of the Next Wave Festiva at Brooklyn Academy of Music, Harvey Theater, 651 Fulton Street, Fort Greene through November 6th only.
-- Review of the London production by Lizzie Loveridge

It's about something wider than politics, about the search of the human race for a more lasting home, about the universe as embodied in the Indian earth and the Indian sky, about the horror lurking in the Marabar Caves.
-- EM Forster talking about his novel A Passage to India
Shared Experience are experts at taking works of great literature and encapsulating them for the stage. Their physical interpretation reworks the novel so that the resulting drama is an enriching experience, always true to the original and never a pale imitation.

In this latest, not to be missed, production of EM Forster's 1924 novel A Passage to India, Shared Experience are at the top of their game. With Nancy Meckler directing and Martin Sherman having written a faithful adaptation especially for Shared Experience, Forster's novel comes to the stage as an intense and evocative portrayal of the British and Indians in the fading days of the British Raj.

The novel tells the story of Dr Aziz (Paul Bazely) a young Indian whose admiration for the British turns to disaffection when he is falsely accused by an Englishwoman, Adela Quested (Penny Layden) of sexually assaulting her on an expedition to the Marabar Caves. The case brings out the mistrust and deeply held prejudice between the two communities. Aziz's conclusion is that the British have to leave India and that the only way forward is an entente between the Moslem and Hindu communities.

Although Forster illustrates the gross racist attitude of the British ex-patriot community, especially the ghastly Mrs Turton, he balances this with a sympathetic portrayal of Mrs Moore (Susan Engel) a visitor from England and her friendship with Dr Aziz, and indeed that of Aziz's friend, the tolerant College Principal, Mr Fielding (Ian Gelder) . The Indian characters too have their prejudices, see Aziz's reaction when he is accused of assaulting Miss Quested. He is mortified because she is so unattractive!

The play opens with an Indian religious story of a Mohammedan martyr who freed prisoners but who was killed by the soldiers. His body was buried at the bottom of a hill and his head at the top, so that there are two shrines to him, that of the Head Above and the Body Below. With red chiffon wrapped round the body, the myth is re-enacted with all its mystique and charm, the whole cast donning white Indian dress. The significance of the saint is that although he was a Moslem, local Hindus too worship him, and he means much to Aziz because he was himself imprisoned.

Inspired direction brings us a memorable elephant, maybe eight actors grouped and swaying, the riders clambering atop the magnificent animal for the journey to the Caves. In this production the Indian atmosphere is enhanced with snatches of tuneful Indian music, composed by Peter Salem from two musicians onstage, Chandru and Sirishkumar. The backdrop is a cloth of dark grey, burnished metallic effect but through which shines glimmers of light. The hot colours of India are there at the festival, rose petals and oleander blossom and more swirling red chiffon scarves. Aziz's tiny prison cell finds him crouched in the middle of the backdrop. His story of innocence, of his eating mangoes as a boy and bathing in the stream is recreated as a dream sequence. First Aziz tells the story, then later the theme is picked up with two boys playing and spilling mango juice as they eat the fruit. I liked too the drama of the court scene as the barristers argue about who should sit where and the case divides people along racial lines.

Susan Engels is excellent as Mrs Moore in a natural portrayal of a woman caught up in a society she does not like but who respects people regardless of their race. Guy Lankester takes the twin roles of her sons from different marriages, the priggish jodphured City magistrate, Ronny Heaslop and his gentler, younger half brother, Ralph Moore. Paul Bazely as Aziz moves from trying to please with the loan of a collar stud to Fielding, which makes Aziz the subject of ridicule, to a man embittered by injustice. Aaron Neil as the turbaned Professor Godbole delivers snatches of Eastern philosophy.

The two and three quarter hours of this superlative production of A Passage to India sped by and it deserves to find a world-wide audience.

LINKS to Curtain Up reviews of plays from Shared Experience

Jane Eyre
A Doll's House
The Mill on the Floss
Mother Courage
The Clearing
The Magic Toyshop

A Passage to India
Written by EM Forster
Adapted by Martin Sherman
Directed by Nancy Meckler

With: Paul Bazely, Geoffrey Beevers, Priyanga Elan, Susan Engel, Ravin J Ganatra, Ian Gelder, Daniel Hope, Nicholas Khan, Guy Lankester, Penny Layden, Aaron Neil
Designer: Niki Turner
Lighting Designer: Chris Davey
Music: Peter Salem
Musicians: Chandru, Sirishkumar
Movement: Liz Ranken
Indian Dance: Sowmya Gopalan
Indian Music Advisors: Chandru, Sirishkumar, Ambika Jois
Sound: Tom Hare
Running time: Two hours 45 minutes with one interval
Box Office: 020 8237 1111
Booking to 22nd February 2003
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 23rd January 2003 Performance at the Riverside Studios, Hammersmith, London W6 (Tube Station: Hammersmith)
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