Linda Thornton puts Colonial rule in the spotlight

THE racial tension of the Partition of India is a long way from the knockabout TV capers of The Avengers – but Linda Thorson says she is in her element.

Best known for her BAFTA-winning role as Tara King, she is now on stage playing the altogether more serious part of Betty Swarmi in David Conville’s Zindabad.

“My character, Betty, is a well-educated, upper-class English woman who has come out to India during the Second World War, working in the Female Nursing Yeomanry,” explains Linda.

“She’s a woman who is not afraid to have the odd wartime fling – she refers to them as her ‘Spinster Salad Days’! – but then she meets and marries a Hindu man named Swarmi, the Commissioner in the Indian Civil Service, and she’s extremely dedicated to him.”

However, when Partition begins, being married to a Hindu puts Betty in an enormous amount of danger.

“There’s a big transition for her; from a feeling of superiority and great relaxation, surrounded by servants, to a humbling sense of the very real, dangerous threat from rioters,” adds Linda.

Although it’s a big change from accompanying John Steed on his secret agent adventures, Canadian-born Linda says she was born for the theatre.

“After The Avengers, I went to see David Conville to be in the New Shakespeare Company, which he founded,” she recalls. “He cast me as Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He gave me my chance to do what I’d spent three years at RADA studying – classical theatre.

“I played Titania for two summers at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, as well as a Middle East tour. Frank Barrie was Oberon to my Titania – and now Zindabad puts us back on the same stage! And it’s brilliant to have the opportunity to work with David again.

“David was raised in India so the authenticity in the piece is unquestionable. He remembers being a boy there: he actually experienced it. Although the writing is about history, the play is, in fact, a human drama about marriage, friendship and fidelity.”

Zindabad will premiere at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Mill Studio, running from Wednesday (27 April) until Saturday 7 May. For ticket information visit yvonne-arnaud.co.uk.

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