Review: Discover India's Third Gender In The House Of In Between

The House of In Between at Theatre Royal Stratford East ★★★☆☆

Lettie Mckie
By Lettie Mckie Last edited 99 months ago

Last Updated 17 April 2016

Review: Discover India's Third Gender In The House Of In Between The House of In Between at Theatre Royal Stratford East 3
Gary Wood and Vikash Bhai in the House of In Between © Robert Day

Theatre Royal Stratford East's latest show The House of In Between reveals the hidden world of India's Hijra community. For the uninitiated, Hijra is the name for a third gender of men who have been castrated — what we would refer to as eunuchs.  

However, as is pointed out early on in Sevan K. Greene's story about the 21st century life of these ancient communities, that word is considered ugly. Historically Hijra were revered as spiritual beings who can cure men's ills through sex and Hijras are often also sex workers.

The play reveals their continued existence through concentrating on one Hijra clan. It tells the story of Uma (Esh Alladi) who leads her clan with an iron fist desperate to uphold their traditions against the flood of modernisation. As office blocks replace slums and their traditional ways of earning money (blessings, dancing, begging, sex work) dry up, it's unclear how much longer they can survive.

When the mysterious Dev (Lucie Shorthouse) turns up in the clan's midst, his presence threatens to destabilise their precarious existence.

Diego Pitarch's simple set of moveable screens, projected with an array of bright colours and Hindu illustrations, alongside a heady mix of traditional Indian dance music from Arun Ghosh, creates an atmospheric backdrop to the story.

Sadly both the script and acting is patchy but there are some good moments of suspense, especially as the mystery surrounding Dev reaches its dramatic conclusion.

A real highlight of the show, apart from the gorgeous array of beautiful saris the actors wear, is the dancing (choreographed by Seeta Patel). The complex sequences and delicate hand movements are handled with effortless grace by the performers, these sections animating the production far more than the often lacklustre dialogue.

The House of In Between is an interesting example of new work exploring transgender issues across the globe. Despite fear for the future of these communities, it celebrates the decision by the Indian Supreme Court in 2014 to officially recognise Hijra as a third gender.

The House of In Between is on at Theatre Royal Stratford East, Gerry Raffles Square, E15 1BN, until 30 April. Tickets £7-£23.50. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.