Skip to content


The Maharajah And The Kohinoor
Published on Friday, 15 July 2011

3 stars

Arts Centre - Studio
13, 15 Jul, 8:40pm-9:30pm; 14, 16 Jul, 10:00pm-10:50pm
Reviewed by Alice de Cent

Originally commissioned by the Anglo-Sikh Heritage Trail, The Maharajah and the Kohinoor tells the story of the life of Duleep Singh - the last Emporer of the Sikhs, who lost the world's largest diamond to Queen Victoria during the British annexation of the Punjab.

Primarily an educational show, and often performed at schools, this is really a piece of dramatised storytelling. With just two actors playing all of the many characters, rapid costume changes and accent switching are to be expected. Perhaps for the same reason, the characters are predominantly simple caricatures, which works well as a way to keeping track of the more minor figures who pop in and out of the action.  But perhaps some depth could be added to the central characters; it would anchor the story a little more.

The audience was engaged by the direct-address storytelling, and Emma Sian Cooper in particular deserves a mention for her clear delivery and moments of real spark. The format is best suited to younger audiences, but it is an interesting piece of usually-untold history revealing where the crown jewels really came from.

The play suffers a little from its historical constraints, as the more dynamic parts of the story – the young Maharajah's coronation and the battle with the British – all fall near the beginning. After those, the pace slows considerably. Though the piece is bound to a certain extent by the events of the Maharajah's life, the structure – particularly the final sections – still has room for improvement, with a view to ratcheting up the tension as the plot moves towards its climax.

The Maharajah And The Kohinoor is telling an interesting story, and in an educational context it no doubt works well. But it does, perhaps, require some structural changes and a general tightening up to be fully ready to engage a wider audience.

<< Magic? Really?   Dev's Army >>