Theatre Upstairs, Royal Court, London
Theatre Review: The Djinns of Eidgah
Wednesday 23 October 2013
In this powerful and haunting new play, the Indian writer Abhishek Majumdar explores the human cost of the conflict in Kashmir through the trials of two young Muslim siblings and a Srinagar psychiatrist. It's a piece that shifts – with spell-binding suppleness in Richard Twyman's excellent traverse-stage production – between fact and fantasy, the real and the imagined.
At the start, through the gauze of their mosquito net, we watch the children being treated by their father to a bedtime story involving the legendary Amir Hamza, sorcerers fighting sorcerers in wars that are all illusion, and the eponymous Djinns who are spirits "of pure passion and no reason" with the ability to assume human form.
In an emblematic scene shift, this cocoon of family peace and safety is torn down by Indian soldiers and, abruptly, we are several years on and in a changing room.
Danny Ashok's lovely, subtle Bilal, a talented teenage football player, is sweating on a trial that could sweep him to Brazil, freedom, and proper medical treatment for his sister Ashrafi. Portrayed with affectingly quiet intensity by Aysha Kala, the girl was traumatised and emotionally arrested by the violent death of their father when she was ten. But Bilal's team mates aren't impressed by his distancing himself from the political protests that are mounting in the tense run-up to Eid and peace talks with India, as an incensed community prepares to bury the latest child to be shot.
Performed on Tom Scutt's excellent set, which is like a giant loom with dangling threads that represent prison bars, the play's great achievement is to show how everyone is intimately woven into the horrors of the conflict and to find non-naturalistic ways of dramatising division and difficult in-between states of mind and heart.
The conscience of the piece is Dr Baig (an impassioned Vincent Ebrahim), Ashrafi's psychiatrist. He fervently believes in reconciliation and has to tussle with the djinn or ghost of his son, who died fighting for the militant mujahideen (he was burned, in fact, by his own men). These scenes, and others, seem to take place in a disturbing twilight zone between worlds. But then Majumdar has written a piece that finds no problem in accommodating poetic mysteries, pointed symbolism (such as the moment when football boots morph into protesters' stones), Islamic story-telling and the black, realistic comedy of, say, the two bickering Indian soldiers who have drawn the short straw of having to guard a martyrs' graveyard. In more ways than one, a transporting experience.
To 9 November; 0207 565 5000
Geoffrey Macnab reviews American Hustle, also starring Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
newsFormer soldier taped 33 of the animals to the floor and then stamped on them one by one
Michelle Nijhuis' daughter insists (s)he is, and she learnt a valuable lesson on gender in books
news Opponents claim it would stop performers such as Beyonce and Madonna appearing on TV
It takes a platoon of chefs, litres of brandy and rum, and almost 100kg of dried fruit
newsThat most ancient of crimes is on the rise, threatening farmers' livelihoods, community trust – and human health
food + drink
sportIf you thought the London Olympics and Wiggins' Tour glory made last year best, don't forget Murray's Wimbledon win and Farah's double
Arts & Ents blogs
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
Anachronistic and iniquitous, grammar schools are a blot on the British education system
- 1 America's 'virgin births'? One in 200 mothers 'became pregnant without having sex'
- 2 27 animals died during filming of Hollywood blockbuster The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, says report
- 3 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 4 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
- 5 Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
- < Previous
- Next >