The Maharajah and the Kohinoor

The Kohinoor diamond is notoriously supposed to carry a curse which falls on all male owners of the stone. Using this diamond and its one time owner Maharajah Duleep Singh as a focal point, this small drama company have created a piece which remind us exactly what a terrible legacy British colonialism has left behind.

Duleep was six when he came to the throne of Punjab. The British took advantage of the divisions in the Sikh Empire to annex his country, exile his mother and put him through a gradual process of anglicisation. We see how the Maharajah becomes part of the British social system, surrendering his claims to his kingdom for the sake of a meagre pension.

Unsurprisingly, this is a tale of rather epic scope, stretching over two continents and with a whole range of different characters. There are exactly two members of zeroPlus Theatre Company in Edinburgh, making this performance something of a juggling act in terms of managing lighting, scene changes and, of course, the ever changing cast. It is impressive to watch Taresh Solanki and Emma Cooper at work, switching from persona to persona with the addition of a hat or a piece of cloth. The ways that they manage to keep the fluidity of the production going and yet also participate in these semi costume changes is impressive; characters go offstage speaking all the while, to return moments later as an entirely different character. The range of accents and mannerisms that Solanki and Cooper draw on is astounding and as a result they manage to almost entirely convincingly portray the range of characters that make up this drama.

The rolling character changes also mean that the pace of the drama is maintained, something which must help when trying to keep young children engaged. However, it does feel that on occasion the pair seem to spread themselves too thin and it sometimes seems like they are hardly onstage together – one of them is coming on only for the other to go and hide between a piece of set and change their hat. This is a shame as the most interesting parts of the drama are definitely when the two of them are onstage interacting, rather than when this dizzying succession of characters is being paraded in front of us.

Overall, though, this is a fascinating tale of a side of British and Indian history that is rarely taught at school level. As a young history buff, I would have loved to have been taken along to this tale of diamonds, royalty and betrayal. You won’t find this in Horrible Histories.

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Performances

The Blurb

A costume drama for families! Before it became part of the Crown Jewels, the Kohinoor diamond had many keepers, many kings and many emperors, but there was one who was very special ... The Young Maharajah

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