A creative and colourful blend of defined choreography merged with eye catching set and staging, The House Of In Between at the Theatre Royal Stratford East takes theatregoers on a trip through classical Indian art and culture. Allowing one to engage freely in this rather sensitive story of transgender dress and at the same time learning how tradition (as well as family ties) can affect the journey these individuals take in identifying themselves.
Although the term transgender is not technically correct, as these individuals do not see one another as opposites mentally, but rather choose to not have a specific gender identity. Seen as ‘freaks’ yet used as sex objects this piece bridges the gap between East and West, giving an honest portrayal of what groups, such as the Hijras must have experienced with all but no social support or security.
Hijras were seen as outsiders to the deeply ritualistic Indian communities, especially during British colonialist rule, and were therefore alienated and denied basic human rights. Having to pay for favours in order to stay safe and essentially protect themselves from being regularly mocked and attacked. Relying on bribery and corruption to escape the high possibility of rape and aggressive male clientele (demanding more than what they paid for). Seeing how these individuals dealt with the issue of prostitution, in a relatively comedic manner at times, just demonstrates how gruelling a position had been created for them due to cultural misunderstanding. Surviving and making a living through dancing, selling ones own body and begging for any sort of financial support.
The mother figure of the clan is a particularly interesting character to observe, as she must hold the crumbling family unit together although she is somewhat responsible for this collapse in the first place. Holding on to a ‘family’ she can no longer control and as a result displaying her power and frustration through physical violence and banishment. Although a strong family unit is necessary for the group’s survival an ability to work and provide for the rest of the family is expected of all. Leaving family members broken and relationships shattered.
Classical Indian dance is used in a dynamic and yet subtle way throughout this production. Highlighting movements of beauty that seem to be embedded with tradition and times past. However these choreographic elements are also used to charm and entice gentlemen willing to pay plenty of money to explore their sexual curiosities and desires. A fine mixture of classical Indian dance merged with contemporary style hip-hop complements the piece well and allows audiences to follow this meaningful journey the protagonists are going on.
The only slight disappointment is that the piece is a little too repetitive at points, leaving one bored and switched off to certain key information offered by the actors on stage. Keeping a grasp of an audience is key to any production and although the cast do manage to a lot of the time, the instances they don’t make the dialogue between characters seem a little dull and pointless.
However, (negatives aside) The House of In Between does surprise and shock audiences, being reflective to the modern issues of today. Filled with decorative screens on stage and engaging dialogue this piece educates and opens ones eyes to a culture long since ignored. A fine tale of tradition, love and loss. 3/5
Review written by Luke Redhead.
The House of In Between is currently showing at the Theatre Royal Stratford East until Saturday 30th April. For more information on the production, visit here…