THEATRE / Between the Lines: Jatinder Verma on a post-colonial Caliban

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The Independent Culture
You taught me language; and my profit on't / Is, I know how to curse (Caliban to Prospero, The Tempest Act 1 sc 2)

This line has remained a kind of beacon for my work over the past 16 years; as well as a tantalising challenge to, one day, produce The Tempest myself.

For a post-colonial (I was born in Africa pre-independence), the resonances of the line are obvious. If I have not produced The Tempest as yet, nor have any immediate plans to do so, it is because I resist a simple reduction of the play to a colonial parable. And yet . . . and yet . . . the line continues to whisper: what other possibility is there? Is Caliban's condition not my condition - as one of a 'coloured minority' in Britain today? Have I not been taught in English schools, do I not speak and dream in English - and am I not still regarded as not quite 'one of us'?

Perhaps, if I continue to have this debate with the Bard, it is because there is a tragic resonance to the line (and to Caliban's condition) that I fear I may betray if I hurry into a production of the play. A tragedy that echoes our own epic journey into encounters with the English language and people. For implicit in Caliban's words is a recognition of what he has lost, as much as a statement of what he has gained.

Tara Arts is currently on tour with Jatinder Verma's production of 'Heer Ranjha', the classic Indian love story. This week Buxton Opera House (0298 72190); then West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, 13-16 Jan (0532 442111); Palace Theatre, Watford, 19-23 Jan (0923 225671); Contact Theatre Manchester (061-274 4400).

(Photograph omitted)