There was a lot of controversy over this play when it was first peformed. The author had to temporarily leave her home because of the death threats from extremists who weren't happy with her portrayal of temple life. I read the play hoping to find a clever and observant message portrayed in a sensitive but powerful way and to be shocked at how anyone could get upset over it.
Unfortunately, the play is blunt and seems to be set out to offend. The beginning is good, there is a lovely relationship between the girl and her mother that is emotionally charged and well portrayed. There is also a tender romance that draws the reader in. The problem arises when we enter the temple, a bed of rape, drug abuse and corruption. The characters are caricatures of sin and depravity or 'dishonour' but they are too corrupt to be believable. The leader of the temple is a serial rapist of women AND a homosexual. The former would have been powerful, adding the gay affair is childish and confusing.
The author said at a panel discussion that she likes to push people until they open up or shut down. She has done that. Those who this message should be aimed at will be turned away from it and it should have been expected that some would be insulted and protest - even to the point of threats to the staff and family of the author (I don't excuse it, I'm just saying it should have been expected). Those who have no need of hearing the message will go on about how freedom of expression has been stifled by fanatic followers of religion. The divide gets bigger, not smaller. Any good that could have been achieved is lost.
This could have been powerful but instead is just sensational.
Having read of the controversy over the performance of this play (it's run was aborted early in Birmingham following Sikh protests which became violent highlighting tesnions between liberal free speech and tolerant multicultarlism) I wanted to read the play itself and try to understand the the background. The play looks at the realtionship of a young woman with her mother; she acts as carer for her. Their relationship with the Sikh community is examined, touching on duty, honour, generations and gender. Towards the end a rape scene occurs in a Sikh Temple, the most obvious of several events to cause particular offense, with a conjunction of profane and sacred that was scene as beyond the pale. As a play to read, were it not for the background described above I would not have found it particularly remarkable (though it is difficult to seperate ones prejudices coming to it from its literary merit). I would imagine it is much more powerful on stage, but certainly it does rely for impact very much on shock tactics rather than linguistic or literary style or any subtley of plot. The issues it tackles are important ones, but it is not difficult to see how the way these have been explored lead to the work's notoriety.