Exhibition: A peep into partition

17th January 2003 at 00:00

Midnight's Children: Maps at Midnight
Royal Shakespeare Company

Salman Rushdie's distinctively accented voice, soft but persuasive, is intoning a few sentences from Midnight's Children.

His subject is the travelling entertainer Lifafa Das and his peepshow, a black contraption into which people squint to see a series of postcards by turning a handle. It is India in 1947, the months before independence.

"Inside the peepshow of Lifafa Das were pictures of the Taj Mahal, and Meenakshi Temple, and the holy Ganges; but as well as these famous sights the peepshow-man had felt the urge to include more contemporary images - Stafford Cripps leaving Nehru's residence; untouchables being touched; educated persons sleeping in large numbers on railway lines; a publicity still of a European actress with a mountain of fruit on her head - Lifafa called her Carmen Verandah. "

Rushdie's novel has been adapted for the stage by the author himself in collaboration with director Tim Supple and the Royal Shakespeare Company's dramaturge, Simon Reade.

The peepshow is, as often with objects in Rushdie's novels, symbolic. Our perspective on history is partial, its events viewed imperfectly and in narrow focus.

The metaphor of the peepshow is perfect for the educational project, Maps at Midnight, which the RSC - under the guidance of Sita Brahmachari - has devised to accompany the production.

Workshops with people of all ages, from elders of the Asian community to schoolchildren as young as 10, in different parts of the UK, and New York and Michigan in the United States, will result in a travelling, walk-in installation of words, music, photographs and video images.

To read this story in full see Friday Magazine in this week's TES.

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