The Father and the Assassin tells the story of Mahatma Gandhi (The Father) and Nathuram Godse (The Assassin). I can’t explain how much the concept of this excited me. I think the story of how Godse came to assassinate Ghandi is incredibly engaging and interesting. I certainly left the theatre with a desire to do more research into this moment of history.
However, I’m not 100% sure that the writing from Anupama Chandrasekhar lived up to the dramatic potential this story had. I found that the story jumped around a lot and gave too much detail in some places and not enough in others. At times I was confused about what time period we were in- and for a story with so much exciting potential I was left a little bored at times. Overall, the second act picked up a little and I did enjoy it. I just had high hopes for this play, and they weren’t quite matched.
Credit is due to Hiran Abeysekera though, who was phenomenal as Godse. He narrated the piece with charming wit and for the perceived villain of the performance, he really managed to persuade us to see that he had a side to the story too. His energy kept the performance alive, and he really dominated and stole the show. I have a pet peeve of watching adults play children, but credit to Abeysekera, who not only played a young child version of Godse but also a young child who grew up believing he was a girl for the first few years of his life. His range was on full display, and he nailed it.
Paul Bazely as Ghandi is also worth a mention. He really captured the essence of an incredibly famous man- and you genuinely believed that he could be Ghandi despite his towering demeanour. I also really enjoyed Aysha Kala who played Vimala. The chemistry between her and Abeysekera was on fire, particularly in the arguments about why she was appearing in his story. It is nice to see female characters getting a moment in what is a male story.
The staging was incredibly beautiful, with a simple staging involving a revolving stage and a woven rope backdrop. Rajha Shakiry’s designing of the set really allowed you to believe we were really in India despite clearly being in the impressive Olivier Theatre. Direction was by Indhu Rubasingham, and her work definitely felt at home in the National Theatre. Even though it did not live up to my expectations, this performance is definitely worth a watch.
- Show title: The Father and the Assassin
- Venue: Olivier Theatre, National Theatre
- Review date: Monday 25th September