Miss Quested has come to India to see if she would like to live there, but is disappointed that she is never given the chance to see "real Indian people" or the "real Indian culture". Her soon to be mother-in-law, Mrs Moore, has an unexpected encounter at a mosque with a local - Dr Aziz - at the beginning of the play and so she asks to be re-introduced. Aziz offers a hand of friendship to the two women, something that he is advised against doing by both his friends and British Colonials.
A pivotal moment in the play is in the Marabar caves, where Dr Aziz takes Miss Quested and Mrs Moore as a display of kindness, eager to share with them the "real India". It is here that, after the confusion of the Caves, Miss Quested accuses Aziz of assault, leading to his arrest and shaping the rest of the play. The terrifying aspect of the caves - the fact that they seem almost alive - is created superbly in this production. The auditorium is plunged into complete darkness, and for a while all you can hear is the menacingly haunting echo which is always the same, no matter what sets it off. The stage is then intermittently lit by handheld matches as the cast move bamboo sticks, creating the reflections of the cave's smooth walls. When Mrs Moore goes in she feels inexplicably oppressed, and the cast move closer to her, their bamboo sticks encaging her as her screams for help are reduced to the entirely overpowering echo - "muboom, muboom". It is spine tingling, and one of the major moments in the play where the whole audience was entirely invested in what was going on, sitting on the edge of their seats and holding their breath.
The story of Dr Aziz and the journey that he goes on, is heart-wrenching, and it is showed with perfection by Asif Khan. Khan is delightfully perky and eager to please as Aziz in the first half, a man who spends all his money on an extravagant banquet for Mrs Moore and Miss Quested before their expedition. He is full of fun and cracks jokes, and Khan makes it impossible for there to be any ounce of badness in him. This makes it all the more powerful when Aziz suffers the terrible injustice of being accused of assault. Suddenly, Aziz is angry with the world - he no longer believes that it is worth trying to love others from different cultures, he is resigned to the fact that "one can never be friends with the British".
The stage was largely bare, with a painted screen at the back and a few hanging drapes, leaving it up to the audience to use their imagination. The cast was really successful in communicating the location of the action, especially in the transitions between scenes through the busy streets of India. The story was well told, although at times it did become a little confusing, in particular towards the end where everything all happened very quickly, but I did get the gist of it.
A Passage To India was full of energy and really did transport me to a different place and a different time. The scenes in the Marabar caves were so haunting that I still remember every second of them. Overall, it was very entertaining, but there were just a few moments where everything became a bit confusing, and for me, at times the message of the play got muddled. I wasn't sure if the company were trying to make the audience think that the concept of loving others with different beliefs and traditions is something as relevant today as in the times of the British Empire, or if they were just telling a story. Perhaps it was clear to others, but I didn't quite grasp it. I would recommend the play to an audience of all ages - if only to experience the magic of the Caves.