When we remember Partition, we remember the politics, or the horrors. And rightly so. The mass displacement that followed the partition of India and Pakistan was an unforgivably mismanaged, unspeakably horrific, terrorising event when communities and neighbours turned against each other, and people saw their loved ones murdered, raped or lost.
But in remembering it so, we reduce the millions of lives caught up in the violence and their individual losses, sacrifices and even triumphs to that one tragic narrative.
Sudha Bhuchar’s play Child of the Divide – receiving its second run in this 70th anniversary year (it was voted Best Kids’ Show by Time Out in its first run in 2006) – tells those human stories, including those of the children.
Based on a short story by renowned Indian novelist and playwright Bhisham Sahni, the play centres on the life of Pali, a five year old boy who becomes lost as his family leaves what is now Pakistan for India, and is taken in and raised by a childless Muslim couple.
As he struggles to come to terms with his identity, the play unfolds through him the stories of those around him. His birth and adoptive families whose humanity stands in bright contrast to the bigotry and hatred mushrooming around them, his friends from the refugee camps who no one wants while his two families struggle over him. How othering takes root, and yet how it can be slowly undone through love and friendship is a key, well-explored message.
“Life should be about love and lassi!”
The scenes between the children, as they make sense of the world they find themselves in are particularly powerful. Even though they seem more like conversations between young adults this isn’t jarring. Karan Gill in particular gives an impressively sensitive performance as Pali/ Altaf.
The play is aimed at kids and young adults, and if the young lady sitting behind me hanging on to every word is anything to go by, they’ll find it accessible and engaging. Overall, Child of the Divide is a charming, thought-provoking, family-friendly play which is well worth seeing.
On at the Polka Theatre currently, moving to Tara Theatre in November.
When: Wednesday 11 October, 4.30pm/ Saturday 14 October, 2pm & 5pm, Sunday 15 October, 2pm
Where: Polka Theatre, 240 The Broadway, Wimbledon, London SW19 1SB
Tickets: £13.50 (concessions available)
More info and to book: Polka Theatre
When: Tuesday 7 – Saturday 11 November 2017, 7.30pm + Thursday 9 & Friday 10 November, 2.30pm
Where: Tara Theatre, 356 Garratt Lane, Earlsfield, London SW18 4ES
More info and to book: Tara Theatre
By Seema Khan.
Posted on 8 October 2017
Photos courtesy Polka Theatre