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Theatre Review Continental shifts in Vinay Patel's acute drama reflect African-Asian tensions from Mau Mau era and beyond

An Adventure
Bush Theatre, London

POLITICAL and romantic, epic and microcosmic, Vinay Patel’s An Adventure both is and isn’t a love story.

Moving from the mid-1950s to the early 1970s and then on to this year, we follow Jyoti and Rasik through the course of their relationship. Traversing India, Kenya and then Britain, theirs is a story of hope and failure.

Their relationship begins in beguiling fashion with Jyoti picking Rasik from among five potential suitors and moving with him to Kenya. But the Mau Mau uprising makes Kenya a difficult place and it tests their loyalties.

The backdrop of the uprising makes for a first act that's hard-hitting and politically complex, with the script occasionally slipping into exposition, a problem recurring in a second act set among the turbulent strikes of early-70s Britain. Despite the fascinating exploration of Jyoti’s union activity and role in the strikes, the tension lags somewhat.

Anjana Vasan and Shubham Saraf offer precise and thoughtful performances as Jyoti and Rasik, with Nila Aalia and Selva Rasalingam taking over the roles as the action moves to 2018 and, while both are engaging, the change produces a disjuncture in our relationship with Jyoti and Rasik and we miss the chemistry between Vasan and Saraf.

Of all the actors, it is Martins Imhangbe who really stands out. He gives an extraordinarily powerful performance as David, the Mau Mau rebel. His relationship to his land is horrifically fractured by British colonial rule and his alienation furthered by Rasik’s purchase of his people’s land. Imhangbe beautifully conveys the the rage, disenfranchisement and the pain of his torture by the British.

Rosanna Vize’s elegant design strikingly embodies the epic elements of the production, with Sally Ferguson’s lighting sculpting the performance beautifully and atmospherically conjuring the mythical moods that the script at times demands. But Ed Clarke’s sound design is often intrusive and seems at odds with the other design elements.

While there are moments when there is sometimes more telling than showing, this is thoughtful work and the Bush has come up with a politically thoughtful engagement with race, as they have  often done this year.

Runs until October 20, box office: bushtheatre.co.uk

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