Thomas W. Hodgkinson

When the Crows Visit

By Anupama Chandrasekhar 
Kiln, London

It takes a bit of warming up: in the first scene, the actors seem mainly to be concentrating on their accents. Once it hits its stride, though, this new play by Anupama Chandrasekhar emerges as something rather extraordinary: a social-issue melodrama as vicious and ambitious as Ibsen’s Ghosts, of which it is a 21st- century update, set in India. Here, as there, the theme is how, even after death, a toxic male can distort the development of his son with his insidious spectral influence. In this case, it’s Akshay (Bally Gill), a floundering Mumbai game developer who is accused of assaulting a woman. When his widowed mother (Ayesha Dharker) resolves to help him, regardless of the truth, she unwittingly perpetuates an evil she thought she had buried with her husband. There’s humour in the extravagant declarations of Soni Razdan’s bedridden grandmother (“Our garden has been barren for years. We are doomed”), but this is a sober evening, I nspired by real-life attacks such as the Delhi bus gang rape of 2012. The ending is so shocking, the person seated next to me actually shook with horror.