Theatre Review: Free Outgoing, 1 – 24 August, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

3 Aug

Part of Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre’s Manifesto season, Free Outgoing is set in a family home in the staunchly traditional Tamil region of southern India. The play, which premiered at the Royal Court in London in 2007 as part of the theatre’s International Playwright’s season, is the work of Chennai-based writer, Anupama Chanrasekhar.

Free Outgoing sees a moving and powerful performance from Lolita Chakrabarti as Malini, the actress better known as PC Jamila Blake in ITV1’s The Bill.

Malini is the fiercely independent and protective mother of Deepa, a well behaved, intelligent girl who was bound for a career in medicine before being ruined by a sexual encounter in a classroom of the local school.

Western culture encroaches on conservative Chennai values throughout the play, through the medium of mobile phones, magazines and TV, highlighting the conflict between traditional Chennai society (still reliant on deliveries of water for basic survival) and the sparkle of the modern western world.

Interestingly, Malini, a highly educated career woman, initially berates her angst-ridden son, Sharan (Amit Shah) for not texting her enough to let her know where he is. However, it is a simple text, spread throughout the community and later the entire country, which causes all the problems for this family.

The single mother ‘superwoman’, Malini, alienated by society, becomes the hunted, trapped in her house by angry mobs. Deepa herself remains faceless during the play, locked away in disgrace.

It is ironic that to be accepted in a deeply conservative society with conflicting and contradictory ideas about women, Malini is forced to turn to modern technology while casting off any remnants of modernity herself. In a mark of respect to traditional Chennai values, Malini covers her head in shame.

See it while you can.

Review by Joanna Muirhead

Free Outgoing is on at The Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from Friday 1 – Sunday 24 August. Visit the Traverse website for full details.

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