This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub: http://www.thereviewshub.com
In 1947, a line was drawn on the map to separate predominantly Hindu India from predominantly Muslim Pakistan, as both countries gained independence from the British Empire. Canadian writer Anusree Roy’s new one-act play, getting its world premiere here, explores the plight of six women and three female children caught up in the chaos of the separation.
Alia (Sakuntala Ramanee) leads the mini exodus from Muslim territory in a coal truck. She is widowed and has abducted two Muslim women, with one child, in revenge for misdeeds. Another woman lies in the truck, felled by a bullet and tended by her “retarded” daughter. Two more women, one pregnant, and a girl get on board en-route. Roy paints a stark picture of the sub-continent’s matriarchal society – women hardened by adversity, determined and resourceful, while their men are absent, fighting, scavenging or dead.
In Anna Drifmier’s compact set design, the back of the truck fills the whole of the Finborough’s small traverse stage, making Anna Pool’s taut production as claustrophobic as it is ferocious. Roy structures the play as a series of dramatic set-pieces, often violent, even gruesome, and the cumulative effect of this relentlessly brutal onslaught becomes wearing. In a chilling moment, Alia encounters a 12-year-old mute, crippled girl and asks “have you been raped yet?” in a matter-of-fact tone that implies acceptance of the inevitable. Here, Roy demonstrates how, when cataloguing horrors, less can be more,
The play emulates the rickety truck, proceeding along a bumpy road, but having no certain sense of direction. A little over-plotting does not help it to achieve clarity, but impassioned performances from a strong ensemble drive it along with force. In describing the plight of women and children displaced from their homes by conflict, the writer must surely have had her mind on modern day suffering and, in that respect, the truck’s hazardous journey has still to end at its destination.
Performance date: 10 October 2016