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Thursday, September 29, 2022

An Adventure review – epic trek from India to England with a stunning debut | Theatre

Early on in this three-act, two-interval, three-hour-long piece, protagonist Jyoti laments that stories like hers don’t get told. This piece goes some way to redressing the balance.

Vinay Patel’s An Adventure was first seen at the Bush in London in 2018 and receives its regional premiere here. In the intervening four years, thanks to the efforts of journalists such as Sathnam Sanghera, we’ve begun to have a wider historical lens on the story of British colonialism and its effects on the south Asian subcontinent.

Viewed through the prism of that fuller story, this tale of a couple who meet in post-partition India in 1954, marry and move first to Nairobi then 1970s England, feels richer. It is not doing anything as deliberately ambitious as telling the story of the empire via individual lives, but the context of Britain finally having those conversations is undeniable.

The sparkiness of the opening scene in which teenage Jyoti (Saba Shiraz) interviews Rasik (Esh Alladi), one of five prospective husbands, is a delight. It is still the most vivid, lively and funny portrayal of an arranged-marriage first-meet that you will see on a British stage. It is dumbfounding that Shiraz is making her theatre debut here; her wit and confidence in the role is that of a far more experienced actor.

Jyoti (Saba Shiraz) and Rasik (Esh Alladi) in An Adventure at the Octagon, Bolton.
A long journey … Jyoti (Saba Shiraz) and Rasik (Esh Alladi) in An Adventure at the Octagon, Bolton. Photograph: Pamela Raith

The overlong second act does, as it did in the original production, meander. The problem is that Patel traverses a lifetime in the story, travelling over six decades in the lives of Jyoti and Rasik, and while we see the waves in a marriage that goes through choppy waters, simply watching them navigate them is not compelling enough.

Director Kash Arshad, who is building an impressive set of credits, could power through the piece a little more yet still draw out the big moments. While Madani Younis’s Bush production landed more heavily on the text, with Patel’s tendency towards big statements writ larger than they are here, Arshad directs with a lighter touch, which means you lose some of the grander emotions.

That said, come the moving finale you can’t help but feel vicariously grateful that a woman like Jyoti has had a chance to tell her story.

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