Childhood best friends begin to be pulled apart in this beautiful, joyous and heart-rending play about identity, set against the emerging reality of Partition.
This new play by Guleraana Mir and afshan d’souza-lodhi, presented by award-winning company The Thelmas, explores the fierce love between these two young women as the world around them changes forever. Using beautifully poetic monologues interwoven with naturalistic dialogue, the audience is drawn in and held by the wit and sensitivity of both the script and performances.
Santi is Sikh and Naz is Muslim – a fact that has no bearing on their friendship or the wider community until the British begin their withdrawl. With a minimalistic set that includes lines drawn on the floor, representing the arbitrary dissection of the country, atmospheric lighting and sound, the creative team underscore and enhance the piece without overwhelming it.
Rose-Marie Christian’s Santi is endearing, warm and likeable: a lover of poetry and devourer of books. By contrast, Karendip Phull’s Naz is bold, impulsive and energetic but with little interest in her education. Both the characters and performers compliment each other, and the sincerity of their love for each other is never in question. Although the subject matter is challenging, they bring a lightness of touch to the piece that means a smile is never far from your face.
As the relationship between the friends begins to deepen, their vow of being together forever is threatened by Naz’s betrothal to a much older, repulsive man and Santi’s infatuation with political activist, Rahul. The discovery of the short story Lihaaf, a banned book celebrating the love of two women, is life-changing for Naz. Santi worries about her friend’s safety if she is married, what will happen to her if she cannot “behave” and submit to her husband. Facing multiple threats of separation, the two decide they must take drastic action.
The unexpected element in this piece is how very funny it is, the repartee between Christian and Phull as well as their physicality and vocal mannerisms. The story is powerful, but although the political aspect looms large, its real strength is the genuine affection you see between the central characters. A poignant play about friendship, love and loyalty, Santi and Naz will stay with you long after you leave the theatre.
By Deborah Klayman
Santi and Naz plays at the Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh until August 28th 2023.