How Long is February? A fantasy in three parts — a video production as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Voices from the South showcase. The play is part satire, part narrative retracing of actual events from recent pasts and part a fantasy of what could ‘justice’ appear as. A very timely production with the growing fanatic violence across the world. Nisha Abdullah’s laser focus and thoughtful kneading of the audience back and forth across 15 years leaves one churned and thoughtful.
The talented troupe brings to the stage the painful, poignant and patient questions we must ask. The play holds space for our disbelief that humans are meting out such violence to other humans. It dips into our collective unconscious of earlier pogroms that mentioned communities to be exterminated as ‘cockroaches’. The music fills the stage with foreboding and haunting with a Malayalam Mappila Paattu offered. The Mappila Muslim community often practises this form of singing. It’s a memory-keeping form comprising songs about history, about important events in the region. The closing song pulls us in with an assertion and demand for justice.
The testimonials in the play are based on actual events mentioned in the Delhi Minorities Commission fact-finding report and media reports. The director and the troupe saddle the imagined future and realities of the past and present with quiet assertion. The existence of discrimination becoming institutionalised and systematic laws creating a space for violence to be repeated again and again. The play speaks to the Unfair, illegal and unconstitutional process unfolding in India. The stories of inhumane torture, destruction of property and mental anguish would ring true to disenfranchised communities worldwide.
Voices from the South draws inspiration from conversations during the Covid-19 pandemic between partnering organisations that include Sã o Paulo International Theatre Festival — MITsp (Brazil), La Teatrería (Mexico), The Baxter Theatre Center (South Africa), Magnetic North Theatre Company (Scotland) and Pickle Factory Dance Foundation (India). In the sea of endless improvised solos at the Fringe this year, the production illuminates the Greek chorus and stages a group of performers who bring heart-wrenching realities to the stage.
Interestingly, in 1947, when India was being partitioned, Edinburgh held its first Fringe; today, how long is February? A fantasy in three parts —brings to your screen India that the travel and tourism advertisements won’t ever show you. The reality of the State, Judiciary and Police functioning as puppets to seemingly invisible strings of big pots of cash. Justice delayed is, but justice denied. The international world promised to end war and promote peace, justice and better living for all mankind in 1945. Still, hatred and violence seem to be systematically rearing their ugly head across the world, and the onus to speak up and ask for justice continues to lie on the shoulders who have lost everything. The play is a reckoning of justice we must dispense to retain our claim to be human.
Reviewer: Anisha Pucadyil
Reviewed: 5th August 2023
North West End UK Rating: