Indian Ink

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Indian Ink
Indian Ink Stoppard.jpg
Cover of the Faber edition
Written by Tom Stoppard
Date premiered 1995
Place premiered Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford
Original language English
Subject India, art, poetry
Genre Drama
Setting India in the 1930s; India and England in the 1980s

Indian Ink is a 1995 play by Tom Stoppard based on his 1991 radio play In the Native State.


The stage version of Indian Ink had its first performance at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, and opened at the Aldwych Theatre, London, on February 27, 1995. The production was directed by Peter Wood and designed by Carl Toms. [1]

The play had its American premiere in 1999 at the American Conservatory Theater (ACT) in San Francisco, California, directed by Carey Perloff (see 1999 in literature). The ACT production starred Jean Stapleton (Eleanor), Art Malik (Nirad), Susan Gibney (Flora), Firdous Bamji (Anish) and Ken Grantham (Eldon Pike).[2][3]

The play was produced Off-Off-Broadway at Walkerspace in August 2003, directed by Ashok Sinha with Lethia Nall (Flora), Sendhil Ramamurthy (Nirad) and Helen-Jean Arthur (Eleanor).[4]

The Roundabout Theatre Company produced Indian Ink Off-Broadway in September 2014 to November 30, 2014 at the Laura Pels Theatre. Directed by Carey Perloff, the cast featured Rosemary Harris as Eleanor Swan, Romola Garai as Flora and Firdous Bamji as Nirad.[5][6][7] The play was nominated for the 2015 Lucille Lortel Awards, Outstanding Costume Design (Candice Donnelly), Outstanding Revival,[8] and Firdous Bamji won an Obie Award for his performance.[9] New York Times critic, Ben Brantley, wrote that he should have been nominated for a Tony Award, but he was ineligible because the play was produced Off-Broadway.[10] The ACT presented the play again in January and February 2015, with Perloff directing and the cast featured Roberta Maxwell (Eleanor), Brenda Meaney (Flora), Firdous Bamji (Nirad) and Pej Vahdat (Anish).[11][12]


Art Malik has been closely associated with the play, taking the role of Nirad in the original London production and in the 1999 American premiere which took place at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. Felicity Kendal originated the role of Flora, originally in the radio play and then on stage.


In 1930, the year of Gandhi's Salt March, British poet Flora Crewe travels to India for her health. Flora is a thoroughly modern girl who has modeled for Modigliani, hobnobbed with communists, and been accused of obscenity for the racy book A Nymph and Her Muse. In India her portrait is painted by the Indian artist Nirad while she fends off the attentions of a dashing but dimwitted scion of the British Raj. But her bravado hides the knowledge that she is severely ill with tuberculosis.

In the 1980s, American academic Eldon Pike seeks out Flora's younger sister Eleanor to discover the truth about the end of the poet's life — she died in India soon after meeting Nirad. Eleanor, who married an Englishman she met at Flora's grave and became a staunch Conservative, reveals little to the scholar, sending him off on a wild goose chase tracing Flora's path through India. But she is more welcoming to Nirad's son Anish, who also comes looking for answers. Eleanor shows Anish a painting by Nirad done partly in a classical Indian style, and partly in the style of Western realism. The painting's erotic symbolism convinces him that his father and Flora were lovers before she died.


Among the play's themes is the contrast of Indian and European styles of poetry and visual art. Nirad explains to Flora the classical Indian theory of nine rasas, which are tonal schemes uniting all forms of art. Each rasa is associated with a colour, a mood, and a musical scale. The play's title refers to Shringara, the rasa of erotic love, which is associated with an inky blue-black colour and the god Krishna, who is always painted with dusky blue skin. Flora is at first puzzled by this artistic tradition, but on falling in love with Nirad she realizes, "It is the colour he looked by moonlight."

The play shares with other Stoppard plays of the 90s the theme of nostalgia and romantic loss, with Flora as the lost beloved corresponding to Thomasina in Arcadia and Moses in The Invention of Love. And like those two plays, it cuts back and forth between characters in two time periods sharing the same set. Stoppard has given director Peter Wood partial credit for developing the structure of the play with its two intertwined storylines.[1]


  1. ^ Stoppard, Tom. Script Tom Stoppard: Plays 5: Aracadia, The Real Thing, Night & Day, Indian Ink, Hapgood, Macmillan, 1999, ISBN 0571197515, pp.365-366
  2. ^ Jones, Kenneth and Ehren, Christine. "Jean Stapleton Dips Into Stoppard's 'Indian Ink' For SF U.S. Premiere, Feb. 24-March 21" Playbill, February 24, 1999
  3. ^ Phillips, Michael. "Worlds Collide, Stoppard Style, in U.S. Premiere of 'Indian Ink'" Los Angeles Times, March 6, 1999
  4. ^ Pierce, Brooke. "Review. 'Indian Ink'", August 21, 2003
  5. ^ "Stoppard's 'Indian Ink' leaves indelible mark". 2014-09-30. Retrieved 2017-02-21. 
  6. ^ Brantley, Ben. "Theater Review. Sitting for a Portrait as Complex as the Raj" The New York Times, September 30, 2014
  7. ^ "The Verdict: Critics Review Tom Stoppard's 'Indian Ink', Starring Rosemary Harris" Playbill, October 1, 1014
  8. ^ " Indian Ink 2014", accessed February 28, 2016
  9. ^ Site by Athletics. "2015 Obie Award Winners Announced". Obie Awards. Retrieved 2017-02-21. 
  10. ^
  11. ^ Karen D'Souza. "Review: 'Indian Ink' at ACT is Tom Stoppard mostly at his best – The Mercury News". Retrieved 2017-02-21. 
  12. ^ Hurwitt, Robert. "Theater review: ACT’s “Indian Ink” shimmers, then fades", January 22, 2015

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