Soho Theatre, London – until 25 March 2017
Tamasha, first started by Khristine Landon-Smith and Sudhar Bhuchar over a quarter of a century ago, look to be in excellent health judging by their latest, Made in India. Tamasha have always sought to bring us new stories or new perspectives on the UK-India relationship and Satinder Kaur Chohan, the beneficiary of the Adopt a Playwright scheme – clearly another vital and important way of helping new writers to emerge – has certainly delivered on their faith in her.
A tale of surrogacy, of a western mother renting’ the womb of an Indian village woman, Satinder Kaur Chohan’s three-hander and Katie Posner’s clever, beguiling production provides enormous food for thought in its short 80 minutes duration.
Acting as kind of metaphor for India’s wider geopolitical relationship with the West, Kaur Chohan takes apart `New India’s claim by its PM Narendra Modri no less, for it to become the new economic powerhouse, to create a transformationone where women, the poor and farmers “are truly empowered”, one “free from corruption, terrorism, black money and dirt” and one “characterized by peace, unity and brotherhood.”
Kaur Chohan shows there are infinite nuances and pros and cons in this new drive for prosperity. Kaur Chohan’s surrogate mother, Aditi (beautifully played by Ulrika Krishnamurti, with just enough comic edge to suggest naive but open-eyed pragmatism) is a farm labourer, her family’s main earner since the death of her husband and living in a mud hut with two daughters. For her, the surrogacy money will help lift her and her daughters out of poverty into new lives, give them better education, a new start in life.
So far so simple. But matters get out of hand when Gina Isaac’s tense, driven advertising exec, Eva (Gina Isaac, another pitch perfect performance), having lost her own husband and having suffered miscarriages and failed IVF, finds her arrival coinciding with a sudden ban on foreign surrogacy.
Without over-stressing the point, Made in India shows not only how scientific and medical advances have outstripped human reaction and response but also how money and poverty are still the great determinants. In the drive for capitalism, everything can be sold for a price – even a womb – if the need is deep and desperate enough.
Designer Lydia Denno provides a series of silk and textured screens in Posner’s production which combines sound and visuals with choreographic skill to convey a swaying inter-connection of dreams, blood, birth and materialism.
In other words, I just loved it. Made in India. Indeed. Small but perfectly formed. Except, could we please, please, next time have biogs on the performers. They really do deserve it!