Ibsen, Indian Style
Henrik Ibsen’s feminist classic, A Doll’s House, has just had an Indian makeover. In a new production, currently on in London, the action moves from Norway to colonial Calcutta—and Ibsen’s heroine Nora is transformed into Niru, married to a British official who refers to her as “my little Indian princess”. In the original, Nora’s husband calls her his “little squirrel”.
It’s a truly multicultural production adapted from the original by Tanika Gupta, a British playwright of Bengali descent, and directed by British-Irish Rachel O'Riordan. Niru is played by Anjana Vasan, a Singaporean actor and singer. Its opening night boasted of an impressive line-up of British and British Asian celebrities, including Meera Syal and Ayesha Dharker.
The play opened to high critical praise for Gupta-O'Riordan’s innovative reworking of Ibsen’s seminal and most-staged work, and for Vasan’s flawless portrayal of Nora who here turns into what The Guardian described as a “sari-wearing Christian convert regarded with equal suspicion by the colonial wives and her fellow Indians”. London Evening Standard singled her out for her “exceptionally good” performance.
What a way to go “desi”.
After the fall
In the aftermath of David Cameron’s defeat in the Brexit referendum, many wished they were a fly on the wall of No 10 to observe how he was coping and what the mood behind the famous black door was like.
Well, now we have it straight from the horse’s mouth. In his just published memoirs, For the Record, Cameron writes that an air of desolation and eeriness pervaded the place as he prepared to leave and it “awaited its next occupant”.
“Power was fading like a dimming light-bulb...I was beginning to feel like the political equivalent of The Walking Dead. In the Downing Street garden, we hosted a school performance of Shakespeare marking 400 years since his death. It was a medley of plays, including Julius Caesar. ‘Dad this could be about you,’ said my son Elween as we listened to those brilliant lines about the most famous political assassination of all.”
And the principal assassins, as he explains elsewhere, were his ex-buddies: Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.
One for the road
Samantha Cameron was so tense before leaving No 10 that she needed a “stiff gin” to calm her nerves.
Describing the last morning of his prime ministership, Cameron writes:”I had a shower and came downstairs just before 6 a.m. Everything had been planned very calmly. Samantha and I would go out into Downing Street. She said: ‘I just don’t think I can go out there—I feel terrible,’ and had a stiff gin at 10 past eight, just before we walked out into the daylight and a wall of (TV) cameras.”
Rest is history.
Hero to Zero
Once hailed as the Tories’ biggest star-turn and most charismatic vote-getter (he’s credited with having almost single-handedly swung the Brexit vote) Boris Johnson has become in a matter of a few torrid weeks one of Britain’s most toxic political figures. Shunned by his own brother, Jo Johnson, who walked out of the government protesting its catastrophic Brexit strategy; booed by protesters at public meetings; and heckled on the streets by angry voters.
And now students at his former college in Oxford University want it to “disavow” him and bar him from entering college grounds. A petition started by Balliol College students calls on the college to revoke Boris Johnson’s alumni status and remove his portraits and other “traces” that he studied there. It also calls for it to publicly condemn him for suspending parliament describing it as “effectively a political coup”, and for pushing his damaging no-deal Brexit.
“With his parliamentary shutdown, Johnson has seriously undermined democracy in the United Kingdom. Despite the far-reaching and devastating implications of a no-deal Brexit for many of its students and members of staff, Balliol College has yet to condemn his actions,” says the petition which has already been signed by more than 200 students.
Johnson read classics at the Balliol College. When he visited his alma mater as foreign secretary two years ago he was heckled and greeted with banners calling him racist.
Watch this space for more bad news for Bo-Jo.
“Social engineering” at Oxbridge
Oxbridge is used to being accused of favouring students from private schools and privileged background. But now it’s under attack from private schools for allegedly discriminating in favour of state school pupils under political pressure.
The head of a leading private school has accused Oxford and Cambridge universities of operating an informal “quota system” for candidates from state schools. “Brilliant” students were being turned away while rules were being bent to accommodate state school students, alleged Andrew Halls of London-based King’s College School.
The boss of another private school, Anthony Wallersteiner, has accused Oxbridge of “social engineering”.
And, lastly, a famously cynical British journalist has just returned from Pakistan singing praises of its people and its beauty.
“We felt safe among friendly people in one of the most stupendous countries I’ve visited,” wrote Mathew Parris in The Times. He was particularly impressed by Pakistanis’ sense of humour illustrated by this notice in an Islamabad hotel’s toilet: “Please do not wash your feet in the wash basin.”