An Adventure at the Bush Theatre
by Bellaray Bertrand-Webb
‘What is home?’ Is a question asked by Raski towards the end of An Adventure, a question which epitomises the main theme of the play. An Adventure is a quest to find home, identity and place, shown in the, romantic, geographical and professional relationships of our two protagonists. Across 3 time spans: 1954, 1978 and 2018, each time zone an hour long and each a timeless adventure.
The play starts in post- Partition India with two people on stage, a man courting a young woman whose father wants to marry off. Pleasantly, you aren’t watching the stereotypical and over used tropes of a dominating South Asian man and a submissive South Asian woman but rather the opposite. You are met with a feisty, witty and darkly jovial girl of 16, Jyoti, who plays with her femininity and power of being desired, on a young, nervous, charming and tender 21- year old, Rasik. The dialogue they exchange is funny and relevant, consequently Rasik drinks the moonshine she teases him with, even though he doesn’t drink, and their fate is sealed. The scene that follows isn’t so heavy in dialogue but set on the beach, Jyoti leads Rasik into the sea, a last embrace before Rasik goes to Mau Mau Kenya for work. The water is emulated in their smooth dance like movement, their trust solidified in supporting each other in the unknown and constantly changing sea. A quietly haunting image of the unforeseeable future and the idealistic nature of human kind, an image mirrored towards the end of the play. The set is bare, with two screens on either side of the thrust stage, which projects what I guess is fabric, this changes throughout the play depending on where we are in time and place, wrapping us in to this world.
The couple are ambitious, active and forward thinking. In part two, Raski and Jyoti are in London in the 70s, Rasik wants to move up the professional ladder as a surveyor, but he is constantly repressed by ‘Steve’, a character which embodies white supremacy at the time. Jyoti is equally if not more, driven, though she still must maintain the female expectations of the time. She fights for justice, being one of the ‘Strikers in Sarees’ during the Grunwick dispute. As they both strive for stability and equality in London, the racial tensions of 1970s London is predominantly depicted in their teenage daughter. Who hasn’t been telling her parents of the racist taunts she receives on the street, one in particular: ‘Go back to Pakistan’. They aren’t from Pakistan and she grew up in London, an identity conflict still common today with ‘where are you really from?’ A popular question in Right to Left circles. An Adventure shows how inescapable we are from being politicised, the colour of your skin and the place where we are born, make for easy targets of prejudice and hate, therefore, home and the right to be is always questioned. That is why An Adventure is an essential play of the time. We get a look into the past but can still see the present problems.
It’s hard to relay the true drama of the play because it is lies within the minute nature of Rasik and Joyti’s life. The political is presented in the personal, showing the marriage of the former influencing the latter. The tensions in Kenya is shown via the relationship between Raski, Jyoti and a Kenyan rebel. A relationship which adds to the drama and arc of the play. The main focus however, is the love between Jyoti and Rasik which is questioned from start to finish, they both have moments of doubt and dislike towards each other as ‘life’ disrupts or rather, doesn’t go as they had hoped or planned.
So, to complete the original quotation- ‘What is home?’ — ‘It is a verb… not a noun’. An adventure surely embodies this, home isn’t something permeant, secure and tangible but an ever-evolving state of being, it can be shaken politically, socially, economically and romantically. So in the end of the day it is within. To find peace in place is a quest most of us are on therefore, it is a play relatable to everyone. I left thinking of my own grandparents who are Dominican immigrants, I sat in awe of them, they are the heroes of their own odyssey, no matter how imperfect life is, no matter how small, it is an adventure.