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Pink Sari Revolution review at Curve, Leicester – ‘powerfully authentic drama’

A scene from Pink Sari Revolution. Photo: Pamela-Raith

Purva Naresh’s powerful new drama is enabled by Arts Council England’s Reimagine India and has been two years in development, including time spent in India with Sampat Pal, founder and leader of the Gulabi Gang. Identified by their bright pink saris, its 400,000 members fight for women’s and human rights.

The play is based on the true story of Pal’s pursuit of justice for Sheelu, a 17-year runaway brutally raped by a married man, whose wife is in denial. Syreeta Kumar plays Sampat – a woman unafraid to challenge anyone – with utter authenticity. Fierce, driven, almost feral in her behaviour, she’s a woman not to be messed with in the turmoil of India’s dark politics and enduring caste system.

The play spares no detail and pulls no punches. The strong-branched tree that dominates the set is gallows material. There’s a shocking episode where the perpetrator of the rape vents his fury by grinding a doll into the ground.

And the women, in need of liberation but with life-and-death choices to make, can be their own worst enemies. “We are so full of shit,” says the woman police officer who has had to connive at the rape concealment. “We make a revolution. But only if others follow,” Sampat cries in frustration.

It’s harrowing. But there is triumph too and gentle comedy, a sometimes teasing portrait of rural women. And actions such as the slow and timeless pleating of one woman’s sari by another create moments of pure beauty.

Verdict
Hard-hitting, powerfully authentic drama with a stellar performance from Syreeta Kumar as activist Sampat Pal

Production

Production
Pink Sari Revolution
Venue
Curve
City
Leicester
Starts
September 27, 2017
Ends
October 7, 2017, then touring until November 11, 2017
Press night
October 5, 2017
Authors
Amana Fontanella-Khan
Adaptation
Purva Naresh
Composer
Naren Chandavarkar
Director
Suba Das
Set
Isla Shaw
Lighting
Tim Lutkin
Sound
Naren Chandavarkar
Costume
Isla Shaw
Technical
Haruka Kuroda (fight director), Helen Ashton (voice coach), Louise Stephens (dramaturg)
Stage manager
Alexa Penny, Sarah-Jane Ledbury
Production manager
Al Parkinson
Cast includes
Syreeta Kumar, Sharan Phull, Gurkiran Kaur, Munir Khairdin, Ulrika Krishnamurti, Goldy Notay, Ronak Patani
Producer
Curve, Belgrade Theatre Coventry and West Yorkshire Playhouse in association with English Touring Theatre
Running time
2hrs 30mins