Gandhari: The Mother Who Chose Not To See is presented by MythologyWorkshop at The Etcetera Theatre in Camden. Written and performed by Vaishali Chakraavarty, with additional writing by Tom Kane and direction by Katie Georgiou, Gandhari tells the legendary myth of the powerful matriarch of the Mahabharata.

Chakraavarty brings a strong start to the show with her energised singing and movement, drawing the audience in straight away. She introduces us to the legacy of Gandhari, using masks and scarves to depict the queen. The masks are used to great effect; beautifully designed by MD Shameem, they bring a mystical element to Gandhari’s scenes without obscuring any of Chakraavarty’s emotion or storytelling.

It takes a while for the overarching themes of the show to become clear. The introductory scenes imply that the focus will be on Gandhari’s decision to live blindfolded so that she may live on an equal level to her blind husband, but the present-day scenes interspersed throughout seem quite disconnected from this, although parallels do eventually come to light. The majority of the scenes delving into the mythology of Gandhari sometimes border on being slightly too poetic and verbose – they are beautifully performed but the story is hard to focus on, and the final scene is particularly long and hard to follow. This is slightly frustrating as these scenes are the through line connecting the pieces of the show.

By contrast, the modern women scenes are brilliantly written and performed – Chakraavarty portrays three different women exploring motherhood in their own ways, delivering monologues with characterisations that are all vastly different from each other, with each character being well-defined and relatable to the audience. Her monologues get increasingly unhinged and frenetic, bringing much-needed humour to a piece with some fairly heavy themes. The characters grapple with feelings of envy and anger whilst trying to be perfect parents to perfect children, which are reflected in Gandhari’s scenes too as she navigates her own impatience and jealousy.

Gandhari is a captivating insight into the culture of Indian motherhood, and Chakraavarty holds the audience in the palm of her hand throughout the entire piece.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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