Midnight's Children, Rushdie's Magical Tale of India and Its Heirs, Plays NYC March 21-30

News   Midnight's Children, Rushdie's Magical Tale of India and Its Heirs, Plays NYC March 21-30 Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie's fantastical allegory of modern India, its neighbors and its heirs, begins Manhattan performances at the Apollo Theater March 21, following stagings in London and Ann Arbor, MI.
Tanya Rodrigues and Zubin Varla in Midnight's Children.
Tanya Rodrigues and Zubin Varla in Midnight's Children. (Photo by Manuel Harlan)

The Royal Shakespeare Company production, seen at the University of Michigan's Power Center earlier this month and in London in January, plays 12 performances in the famed Harlem venue, to March 30.

In a unique relationship between the RSC, the University of Michigan/University Musical Society, Columbia University and the Apollo, the staging comes to life in Manhattan, with lectures and symposia offered to enrich the experience.

Based in the 1981 Rushdie novel, Midnight's Children is billed as "a complex work combining the turbulent history of 20th-century India, Pakistan and Bangladesh; the saga of a Muslim family; and the story of Saleem Sinai, whose telepathic powers allow him to communicate with other midnight's children, born at the moment of India's independence from Britain — the stroke of midnight on Aug. 15, 1947."

In the play, Saleem "is swapped at birth and his life becomes magically entwined with the destinies of the twin nations, born at the same moment as he. One of 1,001 midnight's children, Saleem becomes a symbol of his homeland: one midnight's child determining the state of his nation and the fortunes of his family."

The production, directed and co-adapted by Tim Supple, is a multi-media experience, and includes a elements of cinema. An on-stage screen shows footage from India and Pakistan's history and "adds magic" to the meetings of the midnight's children. The stage version was penned by Rushdie, Simon Reade and Tim Supple. The RSC production, seen in January in London, marked Supple return to the renowned theatre in England. His previous work included The Comedy of Errors, Tales From Ovid (co-adapted with Simon Reade) and A Servant of Two Masters. He also directed a stage version of Rushdie's novel, "Haroun and the Sea Stories" (for the National Theatre).

Director Supple said in a statement, "Past attempts to film and stage 'Midnight's Children' have sadly failed. Now the novel's fantastic language and remarkable story can be enjoyed as a theatrical spectacle. Rushdie's creation will be brought to life in a production that we hope will be as inventive, contemporary, sweeping and engrossing as the novel itself."

Zubin Varlas stars as Saleem. His work for the RSC includes Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, the title role in Roberto Zucco and Caliban in The Tempest. He played Judas in the West End revival of Jesus Christ Superstar and Feste in Tim Supple's film of Twelfth Night.

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The production's cast includes 20 British actors, many of whom are South Asian. Other members of the creative team include Melly Still (designer and movement), Tina McHugh (lighting) and John Leonard (sound and video).

The Ann Arbor run played on the campus of the University of Michigan March 12-16 at the Power Center for the Performing Arts in a co-presentation with the University Musical Society, an independent performing arts presenting organization affiliated with the University of Michigan.

In London, Midnight's Children had a five-week run at London's Barbican Theatre Jan. 18-Feb. 23.

The New York is punctuated with a related "education and humanities festival" to include discussions with Salman Rushdie; round-tables and dialogues with Columbia faculty, South Asian writers, and the artists from the RSC production team. "Themes to be explored will include history of the region, the era of colonialization and its aftermath, the relationship of literature and politics, and the current political climate in the region."

New York City public high school students and teachers in surrounding communities will have the chance to attend special school performances and to become immersed in the play's themes of nationhood, cultural history, and religious, racial and ethnic diversity.

The novel, "Midnight's Children," won the Booker Prize. Rushdie's work includes "The Satanic Verses," "Fury," "The Ground Beneath Her Feet," "The Moor's Last Sigh," and a book of essays, "Step Across This Line."

Tickets range $20-$80. The Apollo Theater is at 253 W. 125th Street. For ticket information, call (212) 307-7171 or visit www.midnightchildrennyc.com.

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Photo by Cynthia Lawson