Bookish Santi and tomboy Naz are fast friends who are unaware they are dancing on the brink of history. Santi is Sikh and Naz is Muslim. The end of British rule in 1947 caused violence between faith groups and mass migration as India and Pakistan endured Partition, yet only vague, gory details of severed donkey heads and dead Muslims enter Santi and Naz’s little bubble.
Written with a light, humorous touch by Guleraana Mir and Afshan D’souza-Lodhi, the play focuses more on the innocence of children’s friendships – how they can cut through the problems of the world, with Partition more of a footnote.
Rose-Marie Christian, as Santi, and Ashna Rabheru, as Naz, perform with giddy exuberance – whether dancing to Bhangra or reading banned books, they are always moving, swaying, squatting or hugging, running across the minimal set by Sascha Gilmour, washed in rose-tinted light.
Santi loves Naz as a friend, but Naz really loves Santi. As homosexuality was only recently legalised in 2018 in India, the play comes to feel like a comment on recent history.
As their teenage years encroach on them, along with the pressures of their society, their separateness and differences become more pronounced and they are pulled in different directions, both emotionally and physically.
While training its lens on a small story of female friendship, Madelaine Moore’s neat one-hour production speaks eloquently about the wider experience of Partition and sexual equality.