‘You’ve raised and milked your cattle.’ Tamasha Theatre’s play looks at all things Made in India – textiles, technology, food and babies. Playwright Satinder Chohan was interested in the conflict between financial market and human morals when writing this intense drama. Neo-liberalism, free market capitalism and commercial surrogacy in New India – many ethical questions are raised here, but don’t expect any definite answers.
A doctor, a dairy farmer seeking a better life and a London advertiser desperate to be a mother – three women’s lives become interwoven in a transaction at Dr Gupta’s (Syreeta Kumar) surrogacy clinic.
After years of failed IVF treatments Eva (Gina Isaac) has one final chance at motherhood when she arrives in Gujarat. Making her own rules she chooses Aditi as the surrogate, not realising how much this will change both of their lives, giving Aditi’s own children a brick house and an education.
With an election approaching, there is a ban placed on paid surrogacy. Aditi (Ulrika Krishnamurti) soon becomes the face of a campaign to “ban the ban”. ‘My body, my choice,’ she says, ironically. Just like the cows on the farm, she doesn’t actually have a choice. Her body is being artificially inseminated and used for the benefit of others, and who cashes in the most money? Not her. The men of India have more of a chance, albeit none of these women have one in their lives. Women are being used for their bodies, whether human or animal, and the play seems to make the connection between the two, comparing the surrogates to cattle.
Aditi is described as a vessel, a womb for rent and the true mother “owns it” because she had a contract and made the transaction, commercialising the most natural thing in the world. After all, the child is just another thing that’s Made in India. Her character brings life to the play, literally and figuratively, breaking up monotonous conversations between the doctor and mother. She gradually learns English throughout the piece but manages to convey her exhaustion and her anger through her facial expression and body language.
Lydia Denno’s set hints towards the textile industry in India, with saris used for the walls, the bed and the baby. The costume changes represent the three trimesters of a woman’s pregnancy. Everything on stage has been thoroughly thought through by Denno. The blood on the linoleum, the yarn that hangs behind them, it’s like looking at the stage through a red filter, a colour that represents the fear that is all around. Fear for the world that we live in, for those at the bottom of the ladder, for women and for the lack of equality. This is feminism for all species.