Free Outgoing / Royal Court Upstairs, London

Royal Court Upstairs, London

Visiting Chennai last year, I was instantly struck by the ubiquitousness of mobiles. In this richly informative play, Anupama Chandrasekhar explores the contradictions between India's embrace of new technology and adherence to traditional values.

The premise is simple enough. Deepa, a high-achieving, 15-year-old, is recorded on her boyfriend's mobile enthusiastically having sex with him; and what follows is accelerating panic. As the video-clips circulate, Deepa and her innocent brother are expelled. Malini, their widowed mother, locks her daughter in her room and trashes the flat's evidence of insidious western technology. Besieged by media and crowds, Malini is held responsible for the breakdown of residential amenities and a national crisis.

What is impressive is how much ground the play covers without ever moving outside the apartment's walls. India's sexual double-standards are revealed through the way disgrace falls upon Deepa rather than her boyfriend: even the fact we never see the girl herself is symbolically suggestive.

Chandrasekhar also touches on the difficulties of single mothers, the academic pressure on India's young, and even the way life in an affluent housing colony is dependent on daily water deliveries. Indhu Rubasingham's fast-moving production is invested with the right escalating despair by Lolita Chakrabarti as the super mum, Sacha Dhawan as her mutinous son, and Raj Ghatak as a mild-mannered colleague.

The play's importance, however, is that it fills a gap in our knowledge - India seen not through sentimental or guilt-ridden colonial eyes, but as it really is: a nation torn between rapid advance and ethical conservatism.

· Until Nov 24. Box office 0207 565 5000


Michael Billington

The GuardianTramp

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