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Gopi Warrier presents


God Sports



by Gopi Warrier


Director Olivia Rowe


New End Theatre


14 - 31 July 2010







A review by Bernie Whelan for EXTRA! EXTRA!

This play is very much of the moment - it even makes reference to the new British government coalition. Although written by an Indian poet, it is aimed at and in tune with a Western audience, already disillusioned with Western science and philosophy and eager to embrace ancient Eastern mystical traditions.

The play trades heavily in obvious symbolism. Nearly everyone is a professor. Pandora (Imogen Vinden-North)  is the beautiful young professor of world health who complains to Professor Cavendish (Duncan Smith) the older, philosophically inclined British Astrophysicist about the relentless romantic pursuit of her by Ashok (Rhik Sammander) the Indian Professor who sends her poems which argue world health can only be saved from the ravages of Western science by Eastern holism.  Cavendish questions the direction of modern science and seems only too ready to accept the poetic critique. In a very unscientific ramble about the investigations into Black Holes In CERN, Cavendish wonders if a little Black Hole might be the same as a big one and whether the world is about to be sucked into oblivion by the Hadron Collider. Professor MacPherson (Andrew McDonald) is the only defender of Enlightenment rationalism, Science, MRI scans and modern medicine and he is described as 'A very big, wet and smelly fart'.

 Two other characters pop up in the academy with no explanation why they are there.  Deepika (Mouna Albakry)is an Indian guru who intervenes in the argument early on to tell the professors how pre-modern Indian ideas of character type link to blood type in a theory something like the Hypocratic idea of the four blood humours and how this approach can be used to treat tumours by touch without surgery, though not as quickly as modern medicine. That is unfortunate, as in my experience, speed in treating cancerous tumours is essential. She exits with a sermon on the revenge Indian Gods will take on arrogant humanity which dares to know too much. Later, while Ashtok is being flattered by Eleanor (Louise Yates playing yet another professor) who tells him she would much rather live the 'simple life' of his people in India, a BNP supporter (Paul Coldrick )inexplicably rushes on stage to insult Ashtok and burst into a crude rant about foreigners taking 'our women' which ends with him shouting pro Nick Griffin slogans at the audience.

Scenes were interspersed with readings of Ashtok's poetry and choral singing by the cast who periodically gathered behind a backstage keyboard player (David York) looking like he'd escaped from the 80’s band Culture Club. Not that I object to an experimental approach to theatre, I like a challenge, but these departures from naturalism were a bit scrambled and disconcerting. Talking to a member of the cast later, I gathered they had not had long to rehearse. However, I wonder if this play could ever claim coherence, but perhaps this is just the point and we are meant to embrace the chaotic bliss of Indian thinking in this play full of rather insulting and patronising stereotypes.  I also wondered what so many Orientalist fantasies, so far divorced from the reality of modern Indian society, could be doing in a play by an Indian writer who surely knows better.

The play ends at a conference near the CERN Tunnel where investigations into Black Holes are taking place. After an impassioned speech extolling the Hindu approach to sexuality over the tawdry Western pursuit of lust at the expense of love, the Indian professor gets his girl in some ungodly sporting on the bed while Cavandish reads yet another Ashtok poem where 'you become me'.  

This play does tap into a deep malaise in the West where, in spite of significant improvements in health and standards of living brought about by science and development, there is a backward looking movement which increasingly rejects the idea of taking these gains forward and argues we should go back to a simpler, pre-modern lifestyle. I don't think people who need these developments to be extended East to afford the same gains to them would agree and neither do I.



New End Theatre

 27 New End Hampstead, London NW3 1JD

Tues to Sat 8:15pm, Sat & Sun matinées 5pm

Tickets £16/£14 concs

Box Office 0870 033 2733



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