“Just a poor black man killing other poor black men on behalf of rich white men whose power games brought us to the edges of hell.”
Powerfully delivered by Mau Mau rebel soldier, David (Martins Imhangbe), this line perhaps best sums up the gravity of Vinay Patel’s epic three-hour play. It lays out how An Adventure brings both the ordinary and extraordinary to the audience, emphasising how both are inextricably linked. The ordinary ‘poor black man’ will find himself embroiled in extraordinary historical affairs, ones that will lead him right through to the ‘edges of hell’. It is here that the strength of Patel’s poetic script lies. The ability, to broaden the scope and significance of our everyday lives because, as Patel himself put to me, ‘you never know what history is until you’re living through it.’
Although the central plot follows the love story of Jyoti (Anjana Vasan) and Rasik (Shubham Saraf), at every stage of their lives they function within the parameters of these ‘power games’. From the tragedies of the Mau Mau era in Kenya orchestrated by the British, to the racial abuse faced by South Asians in Britain, An Adventure reminds us how racism transcends borders and has the power to shape world affairs and personal histories. The most poignant reminders of these occur in the second and third acts when Jyoti and Rasik’s daughter, Sonal (Aysha Kala), speaks of the racial abuse she faces as a South Asian in the UK, “They still spit on me. In the street. They spit, swear. They tell me to go home…” and most shockingly, when David relays the horrors of British detention camps following the Mau Mau uprising.
The idea of home, what it means to lose a home and rebuild a new one in the face of rejection, remains central throughout. Rosanna Vize’s stage design allows for the audience to explore these new spaces and learn to navigate them alongside the characters. The staging reinforces the endless choices that lie ahead for each character as they grapple with the adventures of everyday life. For David, home means staying in the land he has always known, whilst Jyoti and Rasik move twice, first from India to Kenya then to the UK. Jyoti and Rasik, appear unfazed by the enormity of their moves, echoing the experiences of many first generation immigrants. The couple take it in their stride, battling through the hardships to make things easier for those to come after them. Yet it is when Sonal decides to move to Newcastle for university, that Jyoti realises the upheaval of leaving. The enormity of her own actions shrink in the face her daughter actively choosing to uproot. This nod to the tension between first and second-generation immigrants, parents and children, navigating changes through the years, draws the play close to home. It is small moments like these that point to the universality of this story. A story of love, compounded by events outside of our control.