Since 1997, many of the international plays developed as part of the Residency have been presented as full productions at the Royal Court. Since 1993, the Royal Cour...… Read more
Just one message. That’s all it took for Deepa to be hated by the nation.
When a well-behaved Indian girl is filmed with a boy in her classroom, 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.
Free Outgoing sets the rampant technology of the modern world against the conservatism of a traditional society.
Anupama Chandrasekhar has written a fast, watchable play, here performed and directed with aplomb…well done the Royal Court.
— The Daily Mail
What is impressive is how much ground this play covers.
— The Guardian
Director Indhu Rubasingham
Designer Rosa Maggiora
Lighting Mark Jonathan
Sound Christopher Shutt
Cast Ravi Aujila, Lolita Chakrabarti, Sacha Dhawan, Raj Ghatak, Shelley King, Manjinder Virk
Anupama Chandrasekhar’s very attractive and engagingly shrewd play.
— The Independent
A gripping and insightful story.
— Time Out
International Playwrights: A Genesis Project
Media partner: The Independent
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Dates in November
|Thu 8 Nov 2007||12:00am||Jerwood Theatre Upstairs|
Sold out Performances
4 stars The Guardian 4 stars The Independent 4 stars Critics’ Choice 4 stars The Scotsman 4 stars Michael Billington, Guardian Unlimited, 13 November 2007
Visiting Chennai last year, I was instantly struck by the ubiquitousness of mobiles. In this richly informative play, Anupama Chandrasekhar explores the contradictions between India’s embrace of new technology and adherence to traditional values.
The premise is simple enough. Deepa, a high-achieving, 15-year-old, is recorded on her boyfriend’s mobile enthusiastically having sex with him; and what follows is accelerating panic. As the video-clips circulate, Deepa and her innocent brother are expelled. Malini, their widowed mother, locks her daughter in her room and trashes the flat’s evidence of insidious western technology. Besieged by media and crowds, Malini is held responsible for the breakdown of residential amenities and a national crisis.
What is impressive is how much ground the play covers without ever moving outside the apartment’s walls. India’s sexual double-standards are revealed through the way disgrace falls upon Deepa rather than her boyfriend: even the fact we never see the girl herself is symbolically suggestive.
Chandrasekhar also touches on the difficulties of single mothers, the academic pressure on India’s young, and even the way life in an affluent housing colony is dependent on daily water deliveries. Indhu Rubasingham’s fast-moving production is invested with the right escalating despair by Lolita Chakrabarti as the super mum, Sacha Dhawan as her mutinous son, and Raj Ghatak as a mild-mannered colleague.
The play’s importance, however, is that it fills a gap in our knowledge – India seen not through sentimental or guilt-ridden colonial eyes, but as it really is: a nation torn between rapid advance and ethical conservatism.
4 stars Paul Taylor, The Independent, 15 November 2007
The permanently off-stage Indian 15-year-old girl has notoriety thrust upon her with terrible effects in Free Outgoing, Anupama Chandrasekhar’s very attractive and engagingly shrewd play. The Told by an Idiot extravaganza has jokey, over-ingratiating fun with its globetrotting violation of the dramatic unities; Chandrasekhar and director Indhu Rubasingham demonstrate the humane energy that can be released by staying put in one room. Set in an Indian village, the play traces the fallout that follows when the unseen Deepa is filmed on the mobile of the fellow pupil with whom she’s having sex in the school art room.
Before long, she’s downloadable on the internet; she and her brother have been expelled; and the colony of flats where they live is so besieged by journalists that the inhabitants are deprived of water and sanitation.
To some extent, the frame erected by the playwright is arbitrary. We see neither the boy nor Deepa (who takes to her room) and attention is focused instead on Malini, her appalled, increasingly isolated single mother (Loli Chakrabarti), and the any-port-in-a-storm relationship she tries to build up with the nerdy, undesirable colleague (lovely Ravi Aujla). I was very taken by the nimbus of humane uncertainty that Chandrasekhar throws round this latter character. It’s sort of not his fault that he’s a boring, tactless, mother-dominated nerd who hasn’t the courage to jump off the shelf or to act on the (possibly) generous impulse that Malini stirs in him. And the frame, in keeping the girl voiceless, heightens our sense of this society’s sexual double standards.
Fiona Mountford, The Evening Standard, 13 November 2007
Struggling with shame
In moments of idle whimsy, I like to imagine a peaceful country house with rolling lawns, many rooms and a soundtrack of clattering keyboards. There, holed up serenely, a bus-load of the Royal Court’s most promising young writers toil away on their next pieces, learning how to craft sustained, full-length dramas after the short-sharp-shock outbursts of the debuts that rightly brought them recognition.
There would certainly be a room reserved here for Chennai-based Anupama Chandrasekhar, whose work appears as part of the International Playwrights season. Her sparky, gripping premise dwindles as it plays out, which is a real disappointment, as a set-up this good should jet-propel itself to a host of new writing awards.
Widowed 38-year-old Malini (Lolita Chakrabarti) is mother to teenagers Sharan (Sacha Dhawan), whom we see, and Deepa, whom we don’t. Into their pleasant, educationally-aspirational Chennai flat one night comes shocking news: Deepa has been “intimate” with a boy in a classroom. He filmed “the act” on his mobile phone and sent the clip to friends; very soon, it’s all over the internet. The conservative Tamil Chennai public are horrified and a media feeding frenzy ensues, one so vicious we wonder if Free Outgoing has copied the absurdist dramas in the main house and taken a turn for the allegorical.
Chandrasekhar flags up all sort of intriguing points en route to a concluding muddle, not least the clash between technology and conservatism in middleclass Indian life. The phones and computers are the latest models, but codes of acceptable conduct are several updates behind, especially when it comes to girls. In this progressive shame culture, Deepa can aspire to be a doctor, but not to indulge her sexual impulse. Her partner, of course, is barely mentioned.
It fits Chandrasekhar’s thesis that Deepa remains offstage, a projection of her society’s greatest fears about moral degeneracy, although we can’t help wishing that she’d pop up, pout and shout like any 15-year-old and put all this into some much-needed perspective. As it is, it falls to the excellent Chakrabarti to anchor Indhu Rubasingham’s pacy production. Malini traces a compelling arc, from vehement apologist of her daughter’s innocence to broken woman, dependent on the kindness of near-strangers. In this most watchably unforgiving place, the sins of the daughter are visited upon mother, brother and entire community.
4 stars The Scotsman, Joyce Macmillan
IN THE WESTERN WORLD, the idea of patriarchy has gone out of fashion. Serious newspapers publish stories suggesting that women are now the dominant sex; but the Fringe tells a different story, not only about societies where law and customs still blatantly discriminate against women and gay men, but about the seedy sexual underside of our own culture.
Anupama Chandrasekhars Free Outgoing – playing at the Traverse in a production from the Royal Court Theatres Genesis Project – is a brilliantly intense and fast-moving family drama, set in an apartment-block in 21st century Chenai, about the catastrophe that overtakes a hardworking middle-class widow Malini – magnificently played by Lolita Chakrabarti – and her teenage son and daughter, when images of the daughter making love to her boyfriend are filmed on his mobile phone, and circulated across the globe via the internet.
Chandrasekhar makes a superb job of sketching the nightmare escalation of the family crisis, from a brief suspension from school, to expulsion for both children, the loss of Malinis job, and eviction from their flat, besieged by crowds of angry protesters. Caught helplessly between the post-modern world that made this crisis possible, and a traditional – almost Victorian – culture which does not hesitate to visit collective punishment on the families of errant girls, Malini and her children find themselves outcasts, with no man to speak for them. And it finally becomes clear that the hated media, which helped to destroy them, represent the only alternative power in the land that might also be able to save them.
Chandrasekhars play ends abruptly at this crisis-point, as if she can hardly bear to imagine how much worse Malinis fate might become; and some of the acting is a little rough-edged here and there. But the story itself, and Chakrabartis heroic performance, serve as a sharp reminder of the savage cruelty of the sexual double standard to which some in Britain now seem eager to return; and of a world in which a family headed by a woman is seen, by many, as no family at all.