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Golgotha - Tristan Bates Theatre (Review)

Golgotha

Review by Sarah Essa

GOLGOTHA is the latest offering from The Conspirators Kitchen, a new theatre company, set up in 2002, based on the ‘simple process of telling a story dramatically’.

The play offers audiences a re-telling of history focusing on the plight and presence of invisible Asian immigrants in Britain from the days of the British Empire to modern, visible, multi-culturalism post 1960s.

This is illustrated through the monologues of Loretta (Anjana Vasan ) in the first half and Kalil (Raj Ghatak) in the second.

Grassroots theatre tends to be heavier than your multi-coloured West End musical, but Golgotha leaves one in need of anti-depressants.

It starts on a messy note… quite literally from the first glance, as the stage is set up dishevelled with heaps of torn clothes and toys and a headless statue of a naked child.

Sadly, the chaos stays with the play even when the stage is cleared for the second half. The play’s structure is that of a dramatic monologue, laced with strong punches and accusations on the effects of racism, inequality and cruelty towards ‘invisible’ Asian immigrants in the 19th Century.

This blow by blow approach results in a plot encompassing rape, prostitution, abduction and murder involving the first character, Loretta, all in just 45 minutes. Naturally, as a viewer, this leaves you begging for an interval.

But the second half perpetuates the eternal sob story with a rambling structure going back and forth in time with the story of Kalil, an immigrant of the ’60s and (no surprise) further deaths follow.

The political threads that run through the play about the importance of mutual respect seem at odds with the devices employed to illustrate them. For one, it seems ironic that a play that preaches about respect is so filled with hostile references towards Britain.

The message of tolerance is lost in the overkill of extreme tragedy after tragedy, which makes the plot distant and unbelievable. This dramatic disturbing of the viewer’s conscience ultimately leaves them disengaged.

Golgotha seems like a play that’s trying to be progressive in questioning our understanding of history by offering the victim’s side of the story, but it fails to be progressive. Its sombre tone doesn’t offer much hope for a better future.

The dwelling on grievance and the ‘lost generation’ of Asian immigrants doesn’t show the extraordinary progress some have made in Britain today through their resilience.

For all its flaws, however, the historical context of the 19th Century and the 1960s, the two main time frames, is neatly woven in. And the two actors, Anjana Vasan and Raj Ghatak, give as much energy and conviction to their roles as the script allows.

In the end, Golgotha is a play that might appeal to those who like the taste of politically incorrect theatre but it’s far from the easiest or most exciting production to endure.

Golgotha runs at the Tristan Bates Theatre until December 8, 2012
Tickets: £12/£10 concs
Box Office: 020 7240 6283