Thursday, July 25

Indigo Giant – Soho Poly

“I will plant Indigo in your head.” Both threat and promise, this is the doom of a story’s characters and the hope of its audience in this touring production of Indigo Giant. Written by Ben Musgrave, directed by Gavin Joseph, and with production, dramaturgy & lyrics by Leesa Gazi, this moving play has been travelling between venues and currently finds itself nestled in the basement room of the Soho Poly, a somewhat cramped venue still in the midst of its renovation but steadily working its way toward re-emerging as a cultural and theatrical hub.

Telling the story of the Bengali Indigo Rebellion, the plot begins shortly after the wedding of raiyat Sadhu (Diljohn Singh) and Kshetromani (Amy Tara), a young woman whose father was ruined by British planters exploiting both labour and land in the name of indigo production for colonial consumption. There is no love story between them, and although sex (and violence) is present in the narrative its anchoring romance is the bond of solidarity between two women that transcends time. Kshetromani in 1860 and Rupa, a denim factory worker in the present day are two tenacious women separated by years but united in strength, reliant on each other for the inspiration that spurs liberation. Tara is compelling in both performances and portrays a depth of suffering in both roles that is only matched in intensity by her ferocity in rare moments of triumph, both startling in a performer so youthful and engaged. Her commitment to the concept does a great deal of work in mesmerizing audiences cramped into a theatre hardly more well equipped than a child’s playroom.

There is a didactic bent to this play and although it is not focused on child audiences it recreates for adults some of the experience of both expansive wonder and harsh enlightenment that is often found in plays for young audiences and sorely lacking in adult-oriented works that aim to evoke titillation or even disgust in the name of appealing to mature cynicism.

A spare but effective set designed by Caitlin Abbott takes up the majority of the playing space and includes a few interesting design flourishes that enhance the audience’s understanding of space without distracting from the unfolding narrative. Abbott’s costumes and props are also well chosen and lend a coherence to the design that is maintained over the time jump. She dresses actor Thomas King particularly well in his roles as Rose and Jeremy, the two white interlopers into each historical narrative, one a weird, gross man he plays with aplomb, and the other a slippery bureaucrat he plays with a bit more sheepishness, both dressed to the nines and visually crystallizing the inequity of the conflict being explored onstage in their mere appearance.

The music and sound design by Sohini Alam and Oliver Weeks is similarly effective and powerfully mentally invasive, gut wrenching and anxiety stirring. There are a lot of technical constraints to the venue which has not officially operated as theatre since the 1990s and is currently only almost up to the task. The small playing space was well-utilized by the cast but certain design choices, particularly lighting were difficult to eke out of the gloom and the lack of a rake in the seating bank led to some concerns over visibility in the eager and ultimately flexible audience. Performers Subika Anwar-Khan and Chirague Amarchande nonetheless spellbind in their dancing intervals choreographed by Ching Ying and Singh is striking in a performance so anchored to time and place that his visual appearance at the curtain call is genuinely startling. Give yourself into this company’s capable hands and whatever stop you catch them at in their tour you’re sure to be transported, transfixed, and transformed.

Reviewer: Kira Daniels

Reviewed: 19th March 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.
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