Singarevva and the Palace

Tue 12th – Sun 17th August 2014

reviews

Isobel Cockerell

at 02:54 on 14th Aug 2014

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‘Singarevva and the palace’ is a one-woman show about the dramas and trials of life in an Indian village. Taruna Jamalamadaka leads the entirety of it, and she is a beautiful sight. She stomps and jangles her way about the stage as she tells the labyrinthine story of the disgraces, obsessions and difficulties of Indian tradition.

The play is an adaptation of the book by Chandrasekhara Kamba, and, excepting a few weird and wonderful dances, it is around ninety minutes of pure monologue. It’s quite a feat. Whether the whole thing works as a show is another question. The script is beautifully adapted from the original novel, but is at times quite difficult to follow, and as such the eloquence of the writing is often lost in translation. The storyline and atmosphere is so volatile and changeable that the emotional scope of the play is somewhat lacking. Jamalamadaka seemed to have tears pouring down her face for an hour and a half straight – even during the more light-hearted scenes – and for a small and timid Edinburgh audience, the passion simply did not translate.

And there is passion – by the shedload. There is even a strange and sensual sex scene, where Jamalamadaka lies back and spreads her legs for an invisible lover. All life exists on this stage, in the beautiful and tortured expressions of its only protagonist. However, the performance lasts an hour and a half, and at times becomes a little trying and monotonous. The audience is lulled into a kind of stupor by the incessant jangling of the bells attached to Jamalamadaka’s costume; as a matter of fact it becomes quite annoying. The heart-wrenching nature of the tone and story here can leave one feeling a little nonplussed – it is very much a personal experience, and the audience can choose whether or not they want to engage. One would imagine that the content and tone of the tale would leave many audiences cold. However, for someone with a knowledge and interest in Indian culture, taboo and tradition, this is certainly worth a watch.

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Ben Horton

at 09:57 on 14th Aug 2014

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The Theatre Nisha company claims to be “synonymous with avant garde theatre,” seeking to convey tales that are “ritualistic, exhibitionist, decadent.” What you actually get in Singarevva is an interesting journey through another, very different culture: a much more tame experience than is promised.

Hailing from Chennai, Taruna Jamalamadaka and her production team have developed a powerfully moving plot out of the novel Singarevva and the Palace, by Kambara. It tells the tragic tale of a woman who is exploited by her father and then married off to an older man who farcically faints whenever he is aroused. I say this is farcical; in a time and culture where a woman’s single role is to have children her husband is a source of great shame for Singarevva and ultimately leads to her prostituting herself in order to get pregnant. Although seemingly set during the colonial era or even before, this storyline seems particularly relevant today as a reaction to a culture in which misogyny and sexual violence remain rife.

The intriguing thing about this show is its minimalist pretensions. The stage is completely bare with simple lighting, and Jamalamadaka is the only person to appear, taking the role of the maid and friend of Singarevva who has survived tragic events to tell the sorry tale. The monologue is vibrant and powerful, infused with traditional dances and songs from India which demonstrate Jamalamadaka’s considerable all-round talent. Although this set-up works well for the initial parts of the performance, by the end of the eighty minute running time it has become somewhat repetitive.

Despite the charisma of the actor the show would benefit greatly from musical accompaniment or even sound effects. With the greatest respect to Jamalamadaka, anyone would find it difficult to captivate an audience for well over an hour whilst telling a single story.

A tragic and romantic story it is though, and anyone wanting a taste of the exotic at the Fringe this year should absolutely give this a shot. Its claims for sensuality and exhibitionism aside, Theatre Nisha provide a wonderful rendering of this tale, evoking Indian tradition and myth to create a feast for the senses. The only flaw is its length.

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