For those not familiar with the Polka Theatre in Wimbledon, I recommend you have a little Google or pop down south of the Thames and see for yourself why it’s described as one of the best children’s theatres in the country. It’s truly family friendly front of house (not the faux family orientation of some venues which shall not be named) and its programming ranges from little shows for 6 month old babies to thought-provoking plays for 16 year olds.
Until the 15 October the Polka Theatre plays host to Bhuchar Boulevard‘s Child of the Divide. Co-insiding with the 70th anniversary of the partition of India, Child of the Divide explains the very human consequences of Hindus and Muslims being forced from their homes to reside in either the Hindu India or cross the newly formed border to the Islamic Pakistan. It is a fascinating topic and one that deserves attention in this anniversary year.
Sudha Bhuchar’s uses the story of a young boy named Pali left behind in Pakistan when his family flee the country and how his identity is torn between his Hindu roots and his Islamic upbringing from his adopted parents. Bhuchar deftly shows the story through Pali’s eyes, focusing on elements that would naturally be the most important to a child; family, friends, comfort blankets and marbles. However when it comes to the adult dialogue it becomes quite heavy handed and clunky, lacking the intriguing subtly that the child characters have.
Sue Mayes’s set is effective enough with a large map of the newly formed borders looming over the characters as a constant reminded of the damage one line can do. However, with very little colour or inventiveness it lacked the visual stimulation needed to hold a child (and quite frankly my) attention.
Child of the Divide is certainly a tale that deserves to be told and it has all the makings of a fantastic piece of theatre for schools to use to start a dialogue about racism, identity and refugees. However, if I were a parent I would probably think twice about introducing my child to theatre through this show.
Reviewed by Roz Carter