Free OutgoingPosted on: 12 August 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves
Modern technology, morals and the conservatism of a traditional society collide in a new play.
A biting attack on a prurient, hypocritical society is made by Anupama Chandrasekhar in her new play Free Outgoing, at the Traverse Theatre in August as part of the 2008 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
The drama focuses on a close knit, well heeled, middle class Indian Tamil family. Malini is a 38-year-old single mother, whose husband died several years previously. She supplements her income as an accountant with being a part-time saleswoman for metal polish. Her 16-year-old son Sharan is studying hard for his maths exam, with a view to a promising professional career, while his bright, younger sister, Deepa, 15, whom we never see, 'has her heart set on medicine'.
Life seems quiet and relatively peaceful and Malini welcomes a visit from a work colleague, Ramesh. Then, all of a sudden, everything changes with the arrival of Nirmala, Deepa's school principal, who brings shattering news - the teenage Deepa has been filmed having sex in her classroom with a boy who is a close family friend.
Malini at first can't quite believe it and then wonders whether there is any way the shame can be hushed up. However it is too late. The video clip spreads like a virus. Transmitted from person to person it infects firstly the local community and then seemingly the entire country with a burning moral outrage. Both Deepa and Sharan are expelled from school and it looks as if Malini's whole world has collapsed around her.
This short 80 minute play sets the rampant technology of the modern world such as credit cards, cellphones and digital TV against the conservatism of a traditional society. Chandrasekhar writes with economy and power, yet I felt the drama seemed too narrowly focused and rather slow in catching fire. I also think it was a mistake not to have introduced Deepa as a character since she is the person around whom everything revolves.
Yet director Indhu Rubasingham manages to elicit a first rate central performance from Lolita Chakrabarti as Malini, making us totally empathise with her plight and share her unenviable dilemma. She is supported by a strong cast who breathe life into their somewhat underwritten characters.
A thought-provoking play, then, with a knockout punch at the end, but one which would have benefitted from being opened out in greater detail.
Plays until 31st August 2008.
Box office: 020 7565 5000 or: www.traverse.co.uk
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