SIMON Dormandy’s adaptation of EM Forster’s A Passage to India is informed by his father’s experiences of the sub-continent, and the combination of mysticism and surreptitious violence are perfectly suited to Dormandy’s physical theatre style.
In a simple8 and Royal and Derngate, Northampton co-production, this swirling, intense and colourful version distils the essence of the novel, with Kuljit Bhamra’s live music transporting the audience into the heart of the action.
At Salisbury Playhouse it was not to everyone’s taste. Exit comments covered its lack of similarity to Forster’s original and its blatant politicisation.
The ensemble style, with the cast always on stage as they step in and out of the action as well as creating effective elephants, claustrophobic caves and religious celebrations with minimal props, grew organically from Kuljit’s music. His work is familiar to Salisbury audiences after his association with Helen Marriage during her time as director of Salisbury Festival – who could forget his tabla performance at Stonehenge?
A Passage to India vividly underlines the essence of casual racism. Some of the attitudes in this period drama may seem shocking, but they are not a million miles from current attitudes towards foreigners.
If you are looking for a comprehensive literary staging of the book, this is not for you. But it does capture the issues, from the entitled superiority of the British colonialist to the insuperable differences between Hindu, Muslim and Sikh, and the distrust that runs through the blood of all of them.
The production visits Bristol Old Vic from 30th January to 3rd February before continuing its tour.