The play, with Nathuram Godse (Hiran Abeysekera) as its narrator, breathes new life into a seemingly familiar technique. Whilst it is not ground-breaking to have one character narrate the story of a play, the way narration works in this production is one to be studied. Writer, Anupama Chandrasekhar, deserves praise for how well she was able to revitalise a classic technique, and I have not seen many plays do this as successfully as she has. The narration works so well in that it never feels like it does not belong, and it does not disjoint the flow of the play.
The dialogue works in the rest of the performance like perfect pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, as we are taken through Godse’s life. We witness how he was brought up as a girl, an experience which had so profound an impact on him that in his adolescent years he seeks out Gandhi, who becomes a type of idol to him. We are then taken right up to the moment Godse pulls the trigger, etching his name into Indian history as the man who killed Gandhi.
The play kicks off with a monologue delivered by Abeysekera, immediately introducing us to the hints of humour that will thread its way through the performance. This consistent humour not only lightens the subject matter, but also renders it more approachable for the average audience member. Chandrasekhar's remarkable writing skills are evident in her ability to weave these comedic elements into a narrative that deals with such profound and weighty themes. Furthermore, this play is filled with wonderful one-liners that make you think about the themes more deeply, including my personal favourite quote from the play, “Power comes not from weapons but from self-content." There is no better time to reflect than sitting in a theatre, immersed in the experience of an unfolding performance.
Indeed, all the performers must be commended for their brilliance, as they handled the themes of this play with the utmost sensitivity. But, I would be remiss to not to spotlight the play’s strong female acting. The power behind the delivery of each word by Vimala (Aysha Kala), Godse’s childhood friend, is impressive. A special mention must also go to Ayesha Dharker, who acted in the role of Godse’s mother, Aai. Her acting and delivery was compelling, and her one-word quips reminded me of my own mother. The power, yet playfulness and care, behind each word she delivered was truly a standout performance for me – I’d love to see Dharker in more productions.
At the beginning of the performance, we are promised that by the end we will think twice before simply labelling Godse a ‘murderer’; we will come to understand why he did what he did. For me, this was true. I appreciated the uncovering of the other side of the story in a refreshing and enlightening way. By the play's conclusion, I was reconsidering what a more apt title of the play might be: perhaps “The Unseen Face of History and Gandhi", as this portrays the multifaceted lens through which that pivotal moment in history is viewed.
This is one of the most visually captivating plays I have had the pleasure of watching in a while, and one of the things that made this true was the way the lighting was so creatively employed. Some scenes felt like they needed more actors onstage to fill out the space, but this was compensated by the excellent lighting, creating shadows and contributing to the chaos of the scene to make it an overall more immersive experience. It is clear that every step was meticulously thought out to execute an all-round play. A true testament to the whole team - bravo! Watching the play as someone who has no connection to that part of India’s history felt almost surreal, and I can only imagine the emotions of those with a personal connection. This play will certainly have triggered many emotions. Yet, whatever side of history you fall on, I truly believe that there is no time wasted in spending a couple hours taking in this work; The Father and the Assassin is not a play to miss.