When The Crows Visit
Kiln Theatre Autumn 2019
This is an earnest and
sincere play addressing a serious subject with forthright courage and
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.
are left with nothing to discover for ourselves and nothing to do but
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Review - When The Crows Visit - Kiln Theatre 2019