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 The Theatreguide.London Review

The Father And The Assassin
Olivier Theatre   Summer 2022

Anupama Chandrasekhar’s play The Father and the Assassin is the story of Godse, the man who murdered Gandhi.

Our guide is the killer himself Nathuran Godse ( Shubham Saraf), who opens the show in his blood-spattered shirt, his easy smile ready to charm us with his account of an act he is sure we will agree with when we understand.

Engaging and likeable, he immediately has the audience laughing. But the show isn't actually his point of view.

Even the scenes he introduces are occasionally disrupted by a visit from his childhood friend Vimala (Dinita Gohil) or Gandhi (Paul Bazely).

There is also a style of speech, an edge of humour, a political commentary that feels very contemporary with its talk of radicalisation and Godse’s reference to Mountbatten's approach to the partition of India being one ‘Hell-bent on a hard Brexit.’

Godse explains that he ‘didn't have the most conventional childhood’ and as we realise he is being dressed as a girl he tells us to ‘deal with it' and to ‘turn off our English scepticism.’

In an imagined scene after a protest, Gandhi is shown being the first person to identify Godse as a boy and becoming a kindly father figure to him.

However, the boy grows increasingly dissatisfied with Gandhi’s non-violence in the face of British brutality which he argues is making the country effeminate.

This propels him politically rightwards into supporting racist Hindu nationalists and their objections to what they regard as Gandhi’s softness towards Muslims.

There is never any likelihood that we will sympathise with what Godse did or the violence he expressed towards Muslims.

As Godse stands sulkily refusing to enter a meeting at which Gandhi will speak, Vimala, a supporter of Gandhi, points out to him that she had confronted the police and been sent to jail for protesting while he just grumbles on the sidelines, refusing to be involved.

There is so much in this swift-moving show that it is easy to miss a good deal, and the only character with any depth is Godse.

It is also a surprisingly gentle and at times humorous play despite the seriousness of the issues it deals with. So if the performance seems to skate over those issues, it does so in an entertaining way.

Keith McKenna

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Review of  The Father And The Assassin - National Theatre 2022

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