Vault Festival, London – until 2 February 2020
What is it? Santi & Naz is a one act play set in pre-partition India, directed by Madeleine Moore and produced by The Thelmas.
What is it all about? Set between 1945 and 1949, the play follows a pair of close female friends, Santi and Naz, who live in a village in pre-partition India. The pair are extremely close, but when Naz becomes betrothed to a much older man and national tension and conflict grows, the prospect of their separation becomes a reality. They resort to extreme measures to remain together as the political and personal situation worsens.
How did it make me feel? At times moving and at times unexpectedly humorous, Santi & Naz is another recent triumph in female-led theatre. Moore elegantly directs this powerful piece of writing from Guleraana Mir and Afshan D’souza-Lodhi.
Despite the limited space afforded by the venue, there are moments of beautiful movement which are one of the most captivating elements of the performance. This was enhanced by thoughtful lighting design by Rajiv Pattani. Playing Santi and Naz respectively, Rose-Marie Christian and Ashna Rabheru are an animated and engaging pairing.
Though falling out of sync of each other at points, their child-like revelry is exceptional. They are charming and sweet, and they confidently embody the young hearts of their characters. It is easy to emote with these two young women who are growing and learning in a world that is unravelling around them. The historical context of pre-partition India is perfectly placed as a framework which doesn’t impose too heavily on the narrative and the relationship of the two girls.
It adds the perfect degree of gravity, conflict and emotion to the performance. Sound design by Sarah Sayeed, particularly the use of audio clips from the era, are implemented very well to add to the narrative as well as ground the piece in its historical context. Use of props is a touch disjointed, often distracting rather than enhancing.
The addition of a suitcase near the end of the play was jarring to the minimalism of the piece as a whole and it distracted from the significance of the other props, such as the books and the swathes of fabric.
Anything else? Santi & Naz is a powerful piece of writing. It is emotional, animated and moving, and this production is certainly a gem at VAULT Festival 2020. Emma x Santi & Naz is playing at Cage, Vault Festival until Sunday 2 February 2020. If you like our reviews and want to support this blog feel free to buy any of us a virtual coffee here!