Theatre review: Apologies to the Bengali Lady, Greenside at Nicolson Square, Edinburgh

Apologies to a Bengali Lady is a powerful demonstration of what can be done onstage with a low budget, as long as the theatremakers have wit, intelligence and a fine focus on the point they wish to make

Apologies to the Bengali Lady, Greenside at Nicolson Square (Venue 209)

Apologies to the Bengali Lady, Greenside at Nicolson Square * * * *

This well-researched two-hander by Anya Banerjee is a thoughtful and well-composed piece. It manages to both question and celebrate the cultural legacy of Shakespeare all at once, through the lens of the part his writing played in Bengali culture of the late 19th century; in particular, the effect it had upon Bengali women during this era of colonial rule.

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Banerjee is also one of the actors, and she initially appears as B.W., a contemporary woman who is researching the self-same subject (the programme reveals that the influence of Shakespeare in colonial India was also Banerjee’s own MA Literature thesis). As she sits over the laptop she is joined by a vision of Shakespeare himself (Clayton McInerney), to whom she reveals the questionable role his work played in colonialism by taking him to the period in question, with her recast as Bengali Shakespearean actor Tarasundari and he as Will, conflicted Scots soldier of the Empire.

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Under Velani Dibba’s direction, Banerjee and McInerney give strong performances (the latter’s Scottish accent aside) and Banerjee’s play asks tough questions about the actions of the British Empire and its need for recognition of and reparations for these. Yet, through excerpts of Shakespeare which fit perfectly in context, the quality and hopefulness of the writing is allowed to emerge and be separate from its later use as a tool of oppression.

DAVID POLLOCK

Until 24 August