Tamasha Theatre’s Made in India takes as its crux the contentious issue of Indian surrogacy clinics. A three-woman show, the characters meet at a clinic in Gujarat. Eva (Gina Isaac) is arriving from London in a last chance attempt to become a mother. For clinic owner and businesswoman Dr Gupta (Syreeta Kumar), the prospective outlawing of surrogacy threatens her livelihood. And for mother and village girl Aditi (Ulrika Krishnamurti), surrogacy is a path out of poverty for her and her family. These respective, and at times conflicting, interests propel the story through a moving and intimate account of motherhood, vulnerability and perspective.
Sometimes when characters are too representative, too neatly boxed into a role, I find there’s a danger of them seeming flat and difficult to empathise with. However, Made in India steers well clear of this trap, and succeeds wholly in humanising the struggles of those involved. This isn’t to say we empathise equally with all of the characters. The play lays bare the power dynamics underpinning the characters’ relations with one another, and our sympathy is drawn to firmly rest with the powerless. While each woman undeniably has her own struggle, ultimately Dr Gupta and Eva have wealth, education and professional experience on their side, whereas Aditi’s only asset is her womb, up for rent to women like Eva.
The show makes effective and memorable use of simple props and technology. An incurable cringer, I groaned inwardly at first as the three women began to dance, synchronising movements and swirls of fabric with booming beats to represent the swelling Aditi’s belly. However, I found myself warming to the device as Krishnamurti finely captured the sensuousness of pregnancy: strange, hallucinatory and voluptuous. This developed into real gritty viscerality as she drew the cloth out of her body with deep, guttural bellows – symbolic not only of birth, but also of the unraveling of the facade that the women are in it together.
That said, the plot felt a little uncomfortably bloated at times. I felt that the subplot of the campaign didn’t serve much purpose with regards to the story’s appeal or credibility. Similarly, the dialogue had its melodramatic moments, which I felt were maybe not required, given that the subject matter was necessarily going to be emotive. Still, I’d say that reviewers who awarded it 3/5 stars were being a bit mean. A solid 4.
Made in India is presented by Tamasha and The Belgrade Theatre in association with Pilot Theatre and is touring the UK until 8th April 2017.