Leeds Playhouse – until Saturday 10th November 2018
Reviewed By Dawn Smallwood
Partition, a radio based drama, premiered in 2017 and marked the 70th anniversary of the division of India and the formation of Pakistan. Written by Nick Ahad, a radio presenter, the production returns to the Leeds Playhouse’s Pop-Up Theatre and tells the story of a British Asian couple and the partition of India. This is a significant piece of history which is not as widely known and a painful but an important one to be shared. The partition had an impact on the Indian Sub Continent then and today with generations from families who had been torn apart following it and the ongoing issues.
Partition is set with radio microphones lining up at the front and also at some seated props and one of the stage managers (Lucy Bradford) is on stage to assist the cast who recite their parts. Partition is introduced with a radio news broadcast (from Luke Walker) about the partition of India itself and a cast of four perform singular and multiple roles and the audience is introduced to the couple; Saima (Mez Galaria), a Muslim, and Ranjit (Sushil Chudasama), a Sikh, who are planning their wedding. The horrors of the partition and the religious divisions that it brought are never far away when Saima’s mother, Amina (Balvinder Sopal), painfully recalls the train journey she and some of her family had to take to then the newly formed Pakistan. Ranjit’s grandfather, Rajpal (Chudasama), is unable to share until now his painful story.
The drama has a gradual build up with touches of humour and personality and before it is time for both Saima and Ranjit to get married, the fateful stories by their family members have been fully shared with the audience. This includes the social and religious divisions and the impact it had not just in India and Pakistan but across both Asian communities worldwide particularly towards intermarriages. The poignancy to what had happened has certainly brought hate, divisions and pessimism among many however there is a hope of love, unity and optimism as shown in this drama.
Partition is sensitively and thoughtfully written and well put together. The partition of India is such an important and significant story to be shared especially as it hasn’t been thoroughly well known until now. The audience has an opportunity to get both a social and political insight into both countries, past and present, and the relationships this country have with India and Pakistan. It is very painful but it is a story that needs to be told particularly with its fateful journeys of millions affected however there are hopes for the future of community cohesion and unity.
The cast and creative team, under the direction of Stefan Escreet, have put together a poignant but an excellent production and the story will now be shared far and wide on stage and crucially in schools. Afterwards a short question and answer session is hosted on stage which gives the cast and creative team opportunities to share their involvement and insight into Partition. It makes one appreciate Partition even more and how important the story should transpire further beyond the stage.