The Crows Visit
Kiln Theatre Autumn 2019
This is an earnest and
sincere play addressing a serious subject with forthright courage and
But playwright Anupama
Chandrasekhar makes the tactical error of not trusting her audience,
spelling everything out in clear detail and telegraphing every plot turn
long in advance.
We are left with nothing to
discover for ourselves and nothing to do but listen passively.
A young man returns to his
mother's home with shocking news, forcing her to re-examine her life and
recognise her complicity in creating the context that allowed this to
Just in case you didn't catch
the echo, a programme note explains that this is Ibsen's Ghosts,
transported from Norway to India and with hereditary syphilis replaced by
culturally-encouraged misogyny and violence to women.
Coddled by his mother and
grandmother, the young man was unable to make it in the business world,
and in a moment of frustration attacked a random woman with extreme sexual
His mother realises that her
own history of covering up his father's repeated physical abuse of her
contributed to a world that chooses not to see or care about violence to
women. But she also realises she herself is trapped in the culture she
helped create and must help her son because on some
horrible-to-contemplate level he is worth more than his victim.
Just as Ghosts is really
about Mrs. Alving and not her son, here the mother is the far more complex
and sympathetic figure, and it is her moral quandary – how far will she go
to cover for him? - that the play is about, more than his guilt.
Actress Ayesha Dharker works
diligently to find the depths of internal struggle in the woman but is
hampered by a script that puts everything on the surface and leaves her
too little to contribute.
Bally Gill is able to
generate a degree of sympathy for the young man by convincing us that he
is as much the product of his culture as individually culpable. As the
doting grandmother Soni Razdan is given little to do but serve the
playwright's need to explain everything through transparent parables of
past sins coming home to roost.
You cannot fault Anupama Chandrasekhar's desire to address a major cultural and moral issue, or director Indhu Rubasingham's commissioning the play for the Kiln. But there is just too much of an illustrated lecture and too little of a play here.
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Review - When The Crows Visit - Kiln Theatre 2019