Tom Stoppard is a leading British playwright of the twentieth century. His two-act play Indian Ink (1994) is based on his earlier radio play In the Native State and was first performed in London in 1995. Indian Ink takes place in two different locations and time periods: India in 1930, during the struggle for national independence from British colonial rule, and England in the mid-1980s. The action shifts back and forth between these two settings without major set changes or clearly indicated transitions.
The action in India concerns Flora Crewe, a British poetess, whose portrait is being painted by an amateur Indian artist. The action in England concerns the efforts of a scholar of Flora Crewe’s work to gather information for a biography. Flora’s surviving younger sister, Mrs. Swan, is visited first by this English scholar, and then by the son of the Indian artist. The central enigma is the question of whether or not the Indian artist painted a nude portrait of Flora, and whether or not the two had an ‘‘erotic relationship.’’
This play is concerned primarily with the historical and cultural struggles in India to gain independence from British Imperial rule. Indian and English characters discuss their differing perspectives on the history and meaning of British colonization of India. The play addresses themes of Empire, cultural imperialism, and nationalism.
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