Made in India – Traverse Theatre

In the opening lines of Made in India, Doctor Gupta attempts to reduce ‘ the business of having a baby’, through surrogacy to being nothing more than a transaction.  On tour in Edinburgh, from its home at the Belgrade Theatre in London, Satinder Chohan’s play proves with sensitivity and subtlety that this is all but impossible.

Eva is a 48-year-old Brit, who is desperate to be a mother, turns to the surrogacy clinic of Doctor Gupta in India. Whilst she appears to be concerned about the well being of her surrogate Aditi, (alarmingly referred to as surrogate 32) she is patronising towards her, and willing to withhold truths. Eva wants to share the experience and burden of the pregnancy, but absolutely on her own terms, using the physical and emotional pain of the process to excuse her lack of respect for Doctor Gupta’s skill and judgement. Her interfering air of superiority has an unpleasant trace of colonialism and is the cause of many of the problems within the play. Aditi, played beautifully by Ulrika Krishnam, is a 28-year-old mother of two girls and, like Eva, a widow. Whilst surrogacy is evidently a way out of her poverty, Aditi’s true motivations are never entirely clear as Eva quite literally, and deliberately, puts words into her mouth.

The women declare they are a ‘sisterhood’ and certainly appear to be, if inconsistently, throughout the play. Despite their bravery, they all have their own agendas, and the lack of trust and understanding between them quickly puts their solidarity into question. Aditi is encouraged by Dr. Gupta to become the embodiment of ‘Mother India’, she is praised for using her body as a ‘vessel’ to serve her country. Gupta is certainly compassionate and reasonable but the impact of the process on Aditi is never fully comprehended by her. A couple of gentleman audience members inevitably found the mention of Aditi’s womb too uncomfortable to stifle laughter but nevertheless her pregnancy was presented with grace, her bump growing during the (arguably too frequent) choreographed sequences in which she folds lengths of blood red fabric under her sari. The birth itself however, whilst distressing, seemed rushed and was frustratingly overlooked by both the characters and the script.

During this production, varying and conflicting ideas and ideals of womanhood are explored. Eva and Aditi each think the other has ‘everything’, Aditi prizes Eva’s wealth and education, whilst Eva envies Aditi, punishing herself with the idea that her inability to conceive makes her less of a ‘real woman’. Both women seem to have been conditioned by similar ideals of motherhood yet neither is able to recognise this.

The set and lighting was warm and, apart from some unnecessary projections, well-conceived. Weaving looms threaded with reds and pinks which made up movable flats at the back of the stage seemed to refer to the idea of ‘woman’s work’ and are a subtle reminder of other products ‘Made in India’. The costumes, designed by Lydia Denno, are equally simple and magnificent. The pink embroidery and beading on Dr Gupta’s sari link her visually to the pink and red fabric panels used as the walls of her clinic whilst Eva’s white linen is stark and as presumptuous as her tone. Aditi’s bright green sari is striking against the warm palate of the set, she stands out as youthful, brave and vulnerable.

At the end of the play, Dr. Gupta vows to continue to fight for ‘our women’ but quickly corrects herself; ‘all women’ she says. The questions the play raises are never resolved, but they are raised with intelligence, grace and intense emotion.

Young Perspectives Guest Writer: Laura Hounsell

Image: Sophia Schorr-Kon

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