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‘Test Match’ – Spicy encounter has us looking back and forwards…

‘Test Match’ – Spicy encounter has us looking back and forwards…

Playwright looks at modern day cricket match to explore colonial legacies…

THERE are always risks when trying to mix the contemporary with the past but for the most part Kate Attwell’s ‘Test Match’ works. well.

Ably acted as an ensemble with some fine individual performances, among the all women cast, the play’s first half takes place in the present; the second half in India in 1800s Bengal with the same cast.

The first section takes us into the changing rooms of two teams – the England and India women’s cricket teams and a big final game. Rain has stopped play and three women on each team interact.

As you would expect from a competitive environment, there are tensions between the six women, but it isn’t by any means, black and white.

In this part, the characters are simply referred to – on paper – as England 1,2,3 (Bea Svistunenko, Mia Turner and Haylie Jones, respectively) and India 1,2, 3 (Aarushi Riya Ganju, Aiyana Bartlett and Tanya Katyal, respectively). Directed by Diana Page and soon to be in Bolton, this is not to be missed if you enjoy history and cricket.

The Indians are a bit cocky, cheeky and desperate to get one over their former colonial masters at least on the cricket pitch.

The British are a bit stuck up, think they are better than they really are and generally act as anyone not on their side is a threat or worthy of suspicion. And yet between the England Captain (Jones) and the Indian Captain (Ganju), there is respect, grace and good manners – even hints of romance…Attwell doesn’t explore this, but she does go to the heart of a subject that often proves divisive – between East and West generally – and that is sex and sexual relations.

One of the English players starts rambling about the differences between rugby playing lovers and cricket playing romeos – you can kind of tell who comes out better – the physicality of rugby an indication to this woman – of how she will be treated in bed and pleasured to her satifaction, while the cricket players are somewhat limp(er) and more introspective. There is some good natured humour here and it isn’t to be taken too seriously but one of the Indian players takes great umbrage – though only reveals her distaste for these disclosures much later in what will be a bruising and very uncomfortable climax.

Yes, Attwell exposes racism and also the slight and assumed moral superiority of the Indians, as they don’t ‘sleep around’ as the phrase goes. She also deals with same sex relations and shows a deft hand in understanding Indian conservative values – one of the Indian players says she has to get around her head around the fact that one of her own teammates is not hetrosexual.

This is a really a playlet in itself: entertaining, absorbing – and not that much has been explored about the emotions of professional woman sports players. All good.

The second half set is more serious in a sense – but on the surface is represented with far more humour – the subjects and relations between the men (two of the women England cricket characters become male characters) are far more hierarchal and obviously affected by a clear and understood racism – Indian – bad, English-British, good.’

We are now aboard a ship docked in a port in Bengal and two old duffers are talking about the rules of a game called cricket. They express disdain and contempt when it transpires that women playing the game back in England have already come up with some rules – what balderdash – that women could decide upon such important things.

Svistuneko (described in the text as One) and Jones (Two) are having great fun and are good – though at times it is hard not to be reminded of the BBC Series ‘Blackadder’ and its own depiction of the late Regency period. The only substantial part played in this half by an Indian, is the manservant character (Abhi – Katyal) who effectively manages the ship and his masters’ expectations.

The colonial enterprise such as it is brutally but subtly exposed – the Brits are not in want of anything essentially – they have money and weapons and impose their will on the population.

Test Match’ is an entertaining and provocative work (in some respects) and deserves to be widely seen – it should open more conversations on what it means to be equal in a world that has its roots in an inequality that was often based on the colour of one’s skin and geography.

ACV rating: ***1/2 (out of five).

Main picture: India 3 (Tanya Katyal) India 1 (Aarushi Ganju), England 2 (Mia Turner), England 3 (Haylie Jones) and England 2 (Bea Svistuneko)


‘Test Match’ on at Orange Tree Theatre until today (May 18) and then from

Octagon Theatre Bolton, Howell Croft S, BoltonBL1 1SB

Between Thursday, May 23- June 1

More info/tickets

Age: 14+

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture