The Father and the Assassin

Rating: 3.5/5
Venue: Olivier Theatre, London
Cast: Hiran Abeysekera, Paul Bazely, Marc Elliott, Sasha Ghoshal, Aysha Kala, Johndeep More, Aryana Ramkhalawon, Azan Ahmed, Ravi Aujla, Ayesha Dharker, Ravin J Ganatra, Raj Ghatak, Halema Hussain, Nadeem Islam, Tony Jayawardena, Nicholas Khan, Raj Khera, Hari Mackinnon, Sid Sagar and Akshay Shah

Mahatma Gandhi: lawyer, champion of non-violence, beloved leader. Nathuram Godse: journalist, nationalist – and the man who murdered Gandhi. This gripping play traces Godse’s life over 30 years during India’s fight for independence: from a devout follower of Gandhi, through to his radicalisation and their tragic final encounter in Delhi in 1948. 

This play follows the life of Nathuram Godse, and the story of how he went from religiously following Gandhi, to assassinating him. It was incredibly interesting to hear the story told from Godse’s perspective; as horrific as the events were, you really can see the journey that took place for him to reach that point. The play brought to light a little-known piece of history that is often looked over. It took a complicated story and made it accessible and easy to follow. Hiran Abeysekera was brilliantly funny, cleverly breaking the fourth wall to bring the audience along on his journey.

Lighting designer Oliver Fenwick did a stunning job with this show, creating an extensive variety of atmospheres and locations with the most basic use of the rig. The sound design (by Alexander Caplen) was subtle and simple, and yet very effective.

There were some moments in the script that felt a little mundane, the writer would create an amusing line and then proceed to reuse the joke multiple times, rendering it no longer funny. I felt as though the show was not directed in a way to fit the space it was using. 

The Olivier theatre is built in the style of an amphitheatre, with curved seating banks to fit with the rounded shape of the stage. The show was performed in a very end-on way, and it felt that those of us sat in the seating banks either side of the centre were a little forgotten, and that we were watching the show from a side view. This was a real shame because the Olivier Theatre is such a beautiful and unique space, and they did not take full advantage of this.

I often find that any show playing in a theatre that has a revolve will use it just because it’s there, and its often rather inane and repetitive. This show used the revolve beautifully to illustrate the themes of change running through the play, while being very careful not to cross the line into cliché and predictability. The transitions between scenes worked really well, using the perfect mix of lighting, sound, and movement to travel beautifully through both time and space in a very effective way.

It’s always really exciting to see real disability representation on stage because it doesn’t happen nearly enough. Using sign in a stage production is a perfect way to show audiences how stunning inclusion can be, but even more so when the character is not disabled. The most talented actor for the role has been cast, and that person happened to be disabled so they adapted the show accordingly, and it was incredibly beautiful to watch. 

The National Theatre is one of the most accessible theatre venues around London. The staff were extremely helpful, there were clear content warnings posted around the theatre and these were expanded on in detail when I asked. Click here to see my full review of the theatre’s accessibility on Euan’s Guide.

I was not obligated to review and my tickets were not gifted, I sat in Stalls D59 and the ticket was £10, through the National Theatre’s 19-25 scheme. This was a really interesting and well thought-out production, showing a very different side to history than we’ve ever seen on stage before. I would definitely recommend giving this show a watch!

You can catch The Father and the Assassin at Olivier Theatre until 14th October 2023. Tickets here.

**photo credit: Marc Brenner**

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