REVIEW: Child of the Divide; Bhuchar Boulevard

Devesh Kishore in Child of the Divide at Burnley Youth Theatre. (s)
Devesh Kishore in Child of the Divide at Burnley Youth Theatre. (s)

Heartbreak and hate as contagious as fire blazed across the Burnley Youth Theatre stage last weekend.

Child of the Divide, written by former Coronation Street star, Sudha Bhuchar, and directed by Jim Pope, tells of a Hindu boy who becomes separated from his family as they flee political turmoil.

Karan Gill and Halema Hussain as Pali and his adoptive mother. (s)

Karan Gill and Halema Hussain as Pali and his adoptive mother. (s)

It takes place in 1947 when India was split in two to create new country, Pakistan, and neighbours turned against one another.

Taken in by a Muslim family, Pali is given a new home, a new faith, and a new identity.

That is, until his birth father returns for him several years later, and the child must decide between his two lives.

And what a powerful way to mark the 70th anniversary of the partition of India. Not only a poignant illustration of the chaos of the time, the play retains its relevancy in a world where millions are fleeing their war-torn homes.

But it also resonated on a both a personal and a universal level, exploring matters close to many people’s hearts: love; loss; family troubles; and loneliness. No doubt all of us, just like Pali, have questioned who we are and felt, at some point, like an outsider, perhaps even in our own homes.

Setting and props were simple but that’s all that was needed, for the cast’s performances were sensitive and emotionally potent, without ever tipping over into melodrama.

The actors - Karan Gill, Halema Hussain, Devesh Kishore, Nyla Levy and Diljohn Singh - slipped easily into several characters for a show as smooth and dynamic as a dance.

Child of the Divide had it all: laughter; love; sadness; and complex, interesting characters.

It skilfully placed in the spotlight a cavern of pain stretching across two countries. And the fact it used the personal tale of a young boy as a magnifying glass made it all the more heartbreaking.