The Royal and Derngate collaborate with simple8 ensemble company on an adaptation of E. M. Forster’s great novel, A Passage to India. Adapted by Simon Dormandy and co-directed with Sebastian Armesto, the adaption runs through the general happenings in the novel. Mrs Moore (Liz Crowther) and her soon-to-be daughter in law Adela (Phoebe Pryce) want to see the real India, despite her son, Ronny (Edward Killingback), feeling quite different about India and its natives. Upon meeting Aziz (Asif Khan), a Muslim Doctor and wonderful bubble of glee, they venture to the mysterious ancient Marabar Caves, where Adela accuses Aziz of assault.
Accompanied by Kuljit Bhamra’s beautiful atmospheric music, we are transported to India. As the story unfolds, we are met with sequences of music and unison. The cast unite as a picturesque elephant and boat ride, repeatedly becoming echoes of the cave. Theatrically, these parts bring the show together. Forster’s voice is held throughout, with bursts of narration. This is refreshing to hear, but at points it is used at a time where their own voice would’ve been more effective. We aren’t shown what might have happened to Pryce in the caves, a theatrical opportunity missed, leaving us feeling empty for Pryce.
Dormandy’s adaption clearly highlights the issue of social harmony, which is still very much present today. Will we, as a human race, ever accept anyone and everyone for who they are, no matter what belief, culture or religion? The play’s purpose is shown here and we can see that it is a story worth telling. Without a doubt, there are strong performances from all involved. Aziz’s behaviours and friendship with Fielding (Richard Goulding) are what bring the piece to light. We invest in their friendship and feel courageous as Fielding does. Khan’s performance is commendable; it is a delight when he graces the stage. Crowther’s voice stood above all. She has a powerful quality which is used successfully.
Leaving without sentiment made me question what was missing. It’s a fully-fledged production with a talented cast. The story might not be as stimulating as it was in 1924, but with the main question being: Can one be friends with the English? The answer is indicated as, “no not yet”. An interesting thought: is “yet” today? Is this question still being asked? - Holly Kellingray