Hampstead Theatre’s online stream of Howard Brenton‘s Drawing the Line has been taken from the Theatres 2014 season. My knowledge about the days of the British Empire is extremely limited. However, watching this production has certainly opened up my eyes to an interesting part of history and the influence the United Kingdom had over that area of the world during that period.
Judge Cyril Radcliffe (played by Tom Beard) has been ordered by the British government to go and map out the territories dividing up India as the empire begins to close down. A somewhat daunting prospect for somebody who had never been to India or had any previous experience in making maps or the division of territory.
The 14th August had been set as the deadline for India to be “carved up”, the definition used by Jinnah (Paul Bazely) in one of the official meetings. Radcliffe soon realises that the sub-continent is not just a single country as he had been led to believe. This division would never go to be straight forward. passions ran high between all the head of states who quite rightly wanted a say in how their future was going to be shaped. Tempers often flare as different cultures and religions clashed over the land, it’s borders and the ports. Who would have thought drawing a line could have such devastating consequences, which is exactly what Radcliffe was told to do.
References to cricket running throughout the play tend to be used for comedic effect and releasing tensions between the officials as it was one interest both countries shared. Although the subject matter is extremely serious and sensitive the audience is seeing this interpretation through the eyes of the writer, Brenton which is based on factual evidence bringing this important historical period to life through this dark comedy.
The Viceroy “Dickie” Mountbatten (Andrew Havill) and his wife Edwina (Lucy Black) along with PM Attlee(John Mackay) and the political activist Gandhi (Tanveer Ghani) all played a vital role in shaping the subcontinents history and the land division that we now see today. Their interwoven relationships and influences have left a lasting unsettled legacy behind.
For an Off West End Theatre, the staging for this play is superb. The combined sound effects and set design felt as if I was transported temporarily to India. Designer Tim Hatley has proved that the smaller Theatres time after time create some remarkable productions. Another good reason to visit them once all the Theatre’s finally reopen.
Running until Sunday 19th April 10pm it is definitely one worth trying to see before it finishes. If you are interested in watching it please use the link below or perhaps use it to see more information about their future online productions. All the production team and cast are also available there too.
Photo credit Catherine Ashmore.