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The Theatreguide.London Review

When The Crows Visit
Kiln Theatre   Autumn 2019

This is an earnest and sincere play addressing a serious subject with forthright courage and determination.

But playwright Anupama Chandrasekhar makes the tactical error of not trusting her audience, spelling everything out in clear detail and telegraphing every plot turn long in advance.

We are left with nothing to discover for ourselves and nothing to do but listen passively.

A young man returns to his mother's home with shocking news, forcing her to re-examine her life and recognise her complicity in creating the context that allowed this to happen.

Just in case you didn't catch the echo, a programme note explains that this is Ibsen's Ghosts, transported from Norway to India and with hereditary syphilis replaced by culturally-encouraged misogyny and violence to women.

Coddled by his mother and grandmother, the young man was unable to make it in the business world, and in a moment of frustration attacked a random woman with extreme sexual violence.

His mother realises that her own history of covering up his father's repeated physical abuse of her contributed to a world that chooses not to see or care about violence to women. But she also realises she herself is trapped in the culture she helped create and must help her son because on some horrible-to-contemplate level he is worth more than his victim.

Just as Ghosts is really about Mrs. Alving and not her son, here the mother is the far more complex and sympathetic figure, and it is her moral quandary – how far will she go to cover for him? - that the play is about, more than his guilt.

Actress Ayesha Dharker works diligently to find the depths of internal struggle in the woman but is hampered by a script that puts everything on the surface and leaves her too little to contribute.

Bally Gill is able to generate a degree of sympathy for the young man by convincing us that he is as much the product of his culture as individually culpable. As the doting grandmother Soni Razdan is given little to do but serve the playwright's need to explain everything through transparent parables of past sins coming home to roost.

You cannot fault Anupama Chandrasekhar's desire to address a major cultural and moral issue, or director Indhu Rubasingham's commissioning the play for the Kiln. But there is just too much of an illustrated lecture and too little of a play here.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  When The Crows Visit - Kiln Theatre 2019