Eastern Thespians are a theatre group based in London, and they have travelled to Edinburgh with this entertaining production about the Indian state of Goa. The language is Bengali, with surtitles in English. The narrative is split between the upheavals in the DeCunha house in Goa in 1958, when the state is poised for independence from the Portuguese, and a scene at the royal palace in 1471, when the Bahamanis annexed the then Govapuri. Between the obvious parallels and a few incongruities lies an action packed play.
Chandrayee Sengupta delivers a powerful performance as Margarita, replete with nostalgia for the past and insecurity about the future. There is a lovely passage about her love for the rains that serves as a common theme, spanning centuries. The quality of acting is superb, and as a Bengali speaker, I can tell you that the quality of translation is superb too. The practicalities are well thought through: the synchronisation between the surtitles and the action is perfect, the screen sits just above the action in easy view, and it's easy to see from the back.
What's more, because the veterans are so comfortable in the skins of their characters, their thoughts and nature are evident to the audience from the outset. Another win for the script is how well the history of the land and the primary conversations that people had at the time is brought out; even if you have little or no knowledge of the history of the state of Goa, this is a production that will give you a true feel of it.
The biggest drawback of the play is the quantity of dialogue that adds nothing to further the plot. Various emotions that Margarita feels are described multiple times, while conversations that she has had with her brother are repeated to others. For the audience, that is just the same information delivered twice, and while the delivery is good it's frustrating to sit through repetition when the show is already over 80 minutes long.
It's not helped by the similarity in the parallel plot. It is so high that, again, I often felt I had seen the same thing five minutes ago. I almost wished they'd cut down to just one of the storylines when trimming their production for the Fringe.
However, this is still a great choice for those interested in trying a slightly offbeat form of theatre in a foreign language. The acting and the setting combine to deliver a good experience – and if, by this time at the Fringe, you feel you have seen it all before, then you still won't have seen or experienced something quite like this.