THEATRE AT HOME REVIEW: Drawing The Line ★★★

Drawing The Line
The Hampstead Theatre, London
Tuesday 3rd December 2013 - Saturday 11th January 2014

Originally playing the latter months of 2013 and streamed on The Guardian’s website at the time, Drawing the Line is the third and final filmed archive performance being released to coincide with The Hampstead Theatre’s 'At Home' programme. Watching and noting all three productions has been interesting, to see how theatre can widen its audience through the service, proving that there is a thirst for this type of theatre in our climate, and hopefully has gained a few new future theatregoers along the way.

Drawing The Line, which concentrates on Cyril Radcliffe’s (Tom Beard) five week mission to draw a partition through India in 1947, horrifically displaced 15 million people as a result, with a million of those killed. Having passed away from cancer in 2015 at the age 50, a beautiful ‘In Memoriam’ tag is placed at the start of the show for Beard, as well as for director Howard Davies, who passed away a year later of the same condition. Both of these men in the production put a remarkable stamp onto the tough subject, with Beard portraying Radcliffe as a man who knows little of India, and in a way that lets us as an audience follow his journey and learn along with him as we may also not know all the facts surrounding the South Asian country.

The rollercoaster that Radcliffe goes on emotionally vas he is greeted by those within the country, and slowly as the pressure mounts up to the impending deadline, showcases Beard’s talents with sheer respect for his craft; the moment he decides that he has finished the job that he was tasked to achieve is a heartbreaking scene as he knows his one decision has cost the life of millions, and you could really the atmosphere and angst with so much strain on those involved the action. Whilst our protagonist is carved into the text of the play so naturally, some of his encounters fair less so, and I do believe that Howard Brenton’s script is a little unfair on some of it’s portrayals on real life characters, most notably Cyril’s wife Antonia (Abigail Crutterden), who is hardly featured and comes across as just a reminder of the life Cyril leads back home. The writing for Tanveer Ghani also as Gandhi furthermore feels stale in parts and unable to feel fully developed to give such a prominent relation to how Gandhi was at the time.

Mentioned last week, something that I have found impressive in these streamed productions is the use of setting and props to enhance ambience of the country or location, and Drawing the Line is no exception. Tim Hatley’s design is incredibly rich in instantly taking us from 1940’s London to India through clever uses of material masking the locations, to which are impressive and laverishing to watch unfold in the transitions. The landscape of sounds and emotions from Nicki Wells design is also a trait in which I think excels this production further in moving us from one tense moment to the next, especially when the air in the country is stiff from the hideous consequences that are about to be put in place, further emphasised by Rick Fisher’s lighting, which comes through beautiful in silhouettes on stage, with some sharp focussing on the characters, making each location unique to the next!

Overall, Drawing the Line could have fallen for turning into a history lesson rather than a production to entertain the masses, but using Cyril as a device to talk through his emotions and actions to the audience so we follow his journey in discovering more about India, helps us to educate ourselves for our own entertainment, sharing our emotions alongside Cyril the whole way through, giving us empathy for the daunting task in which he is about to embark himself on, but in the same matter feels like to strays away from lending it’s ensemble characters the same crux of writing, with some falling by the wayside.

You can stream Drawing The Line right now by Clicking Here.

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