‘Ali J’ confronts the issue of the partition of British India on the basis of differing religious ideals. Muhammad Ali Jinnah was the founder of Pakistan and a major part of the partition, which resulted in over a million people being killed and those who did survive were homeless. On his deathbed he is said to have lamented ‘Pakistan was my greatest blunder’. Pakistan was the new home of the Indian Muslim community.
The play focuses on a Muslim man in the present day , so don’t worry if your Indian history isn’t up to scratch. The protagonist, Ali J is in jail for a crime he did not commit and has been persecuted for being a Muslim in a mainly Hindu community. When we meet him he’s on death row. He talks directly to us as he believes we are a delusion caused by his close proximity to death. Because of this connection, he tells us of his past.
This one-man show takes us on a journey throughout his life and across continents. You do not question the fact that the set does not change; the precise placement of each movement ensures that the audience knows exactly where in his memory Ali J is. The character changes his mood in almost a Jekyll and Hyde fashion; one moment deliriously happy with the love of his life and the next imprisoned and angry at the world that has persecuted him for his religion.
Through a beautifully written script and excellent performance work we are transported to Ali J’s jail cell and can see the struggle within him and India; and it makes us wonder, are either of them ready to change? It’s an interesting and thought provoking show that inspires viewers to take a new interest in Indian history.
Reviewed by Bethan Hastelow.