Santi & Naz
VAULT Festival 2020 is off to a smashing start with an exceptional entry by theatre company The Thelmas. Santi & Naz, written by Guleraana Mir and Afshan D’souza-Lodhi, is a heart-warming story about two young women living in a small Indian village in the years leading up to Partition. With plenty of wit and an astonishingly forceful characterisation of two distinct and likeable personalities, it is an endearing, well-written and often hilarious two-hander.
The plot follows the girls as Naz becomes betrothed to an older – and extremely unlikeable – man, who threatens to separate the two after they have been best friends for many years, despite coming from differing religious backgrounds. The focal point is obviously their impending separation – coupled with looming political threat – but the heart of the story is undoubtedly the dialogue surrounding the pair’s lives, eloquently tackling themes such as friendship and love, the conflict between loyalty and identity, and the politics of late-1940s India.
Such a dialogue-focused play requires strong actors to carry it, and director Madelaine Moore has selected a fantastic cast. Rose-Marie Christian, as Santi, is a bookish Sikh with a quiet nature and a keen interest in contemporary politics, whereas Ashna Rabheru’s Naz is a playful Muslim and a free spirit – almost opposites in character, their friendship is yet believable and touching throughout. The performance is supported aptly by Sascha Gilmour’s minimalistic design, with atmospheric lighting by Rajiv Pattani and subtle sound design by Sarah Sayeed.
The script, too, is powerful, with a great build-up as we move from the protagonists’ playful early days towards the serious and threatening events to come. While politics never becomes the absolute centre of the play, it always looms in the background, a constant suggestion of the uncertainties of the time.
The Indian Partition is not a particularly common backdrop for a play, so it’s refreshing to see it not just done, but done extremely well. Santi & Naz is genuinely funny, moving and plain enjoyable to watch, touching upon an astonishingly wide array of topics, making it an easy recommendation for any audience.
Photos: Steve Gregson
Santi & Naz is at Vault Festival from 28th January to 2nd February 2020. Read more reviews from our Vault Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Vault Festival website here.