Made In India – Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Writer: Satinder Chohan

Director: Katie Posner

Reviewer:  Nicole Evans

Made In India. A phrase we see on our clothing, our toys, our tea; so why not our babies?

Setting out to explore the rights and wrongs of foreign surrogacy arrangements in India, Made In India asks this very question and portrays the story of three women; Eva, the child-seeking westerner, Dr Gupta, who treats every woman through her doors as a business transaction and Aditi, the young Indian surrogate who wants a better life for her children.

After travelling to India to use her dead husband’s sperm to create embryos, finding a doctor that would agree to the treatment, and contracting the surrogate who will attempt to carry her child, a government ban on foreign arrangements causes Eva, and Aditi and Dr Gupta alike, to question their morals and decide if this transaction is important enough for them to break the law for.
Setting the scene is a series of semi-transparent screens bathed in red and orange light. Curved bulbs hang from the studio roof and the floor resembles that of a tiled, clinical room, with blood-like patterns spilling out into a circle of white. With sound and music minimal, aside from some symbolic interpretations of a growing baby bump, the actors take care of the rest.

No stranger to controversial subject matter, Ulrika Krishnamurti successfully captures the stark contrast of the delicate mannerisms and retiring nature of the Aditi we first meet versus the powerful girl who retains a degree of control over her exploitation later on. Syreeta Kumar is convincing in her role as business-like Dr Gupta, although in trying to portray the cold personality her performance slips into seeming a little stiff and unpractised at times. Gina Isaac, although grasping the stereotype of a woman in her situation, doesn’t quite hit us with the levels of emotion she is supposed to be experiencing and therefore loses some of the sympathy that is intended.
Despite their individual flaws, the three have a great rapport on-stage and the audience is soon wrapped up in their story, mentally choosing sides as their tales unfold.

It would have been all too easy to go down the route of a heavily biased and somewhat simplistic view of foreign surrogacy arrangements such as the one depicted in this play and side completely with the surrogate. Instead, Made In India manages to draw on the parallels of the three women’s very differing degrees of desperation; for a route out of poverty, for a career in a land of little choices, for a long awaited child, and demonstrates each woman’s willingness to sacrifice her morals to achieve their goals. Successful in making you feel for each one of the women at some point along their journey, whether you agree with their motives or not, it leaves you with a crystal-clear vision of who is the most exploited party, but a somewhat hazier view of where the fault actually lies.
A subtly and increasingly thought-provoking depiction of an all-too-true reality. A moving collaboration.

Runs until 4 February 2017 | Image: Robert Day

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