Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Too Little Magic in Rushdie's Realism

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Too Little Magic in Rushdie's Realism

Article excerpt

Byline: NICHOLAS DE JONGH

THEATRE Midnight's Children Barbican

IT'S years since I saw anything quite so strange as this epic feat of adaptation that transports the magic and realism, the fantasising and farce of Salman Rushdie's big novel about post-war India and Pakistan from page to stage. I had to adjust my mind, ears and eyes to cope with the sheer scale of the novel experience.

For Tim Supple's RSC production, in an adaptation he has written with Rushdie himself and Simon Reade, is swept along in a hurly-burly of old cinema newsreel about India and Pakistan, new video film, old rock music from the West and newer sounds from the East. On the actual stage, scenes of assassination and political protest, warfare of the marital and military sort, weddings and torture, visions and ghosts and a moment of a nurse's crucial wickedness in hospital come at us in a helterskelter rush. The Asian actors perform with, finely drilled exuberance.

Yet exhilarating as it is to experience the young heronarrator, Saleem Sinai, dramatising his life and familyhistory, which he rightly sees as being intertwined with that of India's, I cannot count this Midnight's Children as a runaway success.The modest, touring adaptation by Martin Sherman of another great, related novel, EM Forster's A Passage to India, now at Riverside Studios, enjoys what this production needs and conspicuously lacks - a theatre style of its own.

Rushdie's novel, whose realism has more than a touch of magic about it, with its feet on the ground and imagination floating in the clouds, has been given a literal-minded treatment.Yet Midnight's Children cries out for a dreamstruck staging that matches and catches the original.

Rarely can stage hands have been so busy with scene changes, as beds, tables, desks, a chaise-longue, petrol pump and laundry-box are rushed on and off stage. …

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