May 28 2015
It’s a play that aims to explore the intricacies of an interracial marriage in a creative and touchingly interactive way…
By Tasha Mathur
HELD at the Royal Festival Hall as part of this year’s Alchemy Festival, “My Big Fat Cowpat Wedding” is advertised as a formal invitation to ‘Clare and Arjun’s wedding reception’, all the way down to the dress code, ‘Smart casual. Hats welcome. Wellington boots optional’; even with a few guests lined up outside the venue for authenticity. And a wedding reception it definitely is!
As an interesting form of immersive theatre, audience members were greeted as guests as soon as they entered the decorated venue with offerings of free lemon drizzle and oats and rhubarb cake. With a table piled high with presents, colourful banners and more tables (with bowls of crisps and popcorn) surrounding the makeshift stage for the ‘guests’ to sit at, it really did feel like I had stepped into (or gatecrashed) someone’s wedding. And yes, I was underdressed.
To make it even more authentic, the happy couple, bride’s father and groom’s mother were mingling amongst the ‘guests’ before the play began; thanking them for coming and asking them to help themselves to some cake. With some audience members really getting into their roles as guests, it was a great credit to the actors to be able to improvise their conversation as well their own characters.
The story revolves around English country girl, Clare (Aimee Berwick) and Indian city boy, Arjun (Aaron Virdee) trying to get through the biggest day of their lives without any mishaps or drama but with an interracial marriage where both families and cultures collide together, their special day quickly unravels in this fast-paced comedy.
Directed by Janet Steel and Steve Johnstone, “My Big Fat Cowpat Wedding” cleverly merges a range of themes together from interracial marriage to the city and country divide. This is summed up beautifully (and hilariously) after family photos were taken outside in the English countryside and Arjun’s mother noting, “Half of my family were running away from the cows, the other half…worshipping them!”
Writer Sayan Kent cleverly uses the country/city rivalry as a euphemism within the play to highlight ethnic differences with lines such as, ‘They come to our village and take our women’ to subtly touch upon some perceptions of interracial marriage without overwhelming audiences.
With just four actors sharing out twelve different roles, it was a true treat to watch the talented cast give convincing performances of each character with seamless transitions. A highlight for me was actress Sheena Patel, who went from Arjun’s doting mother to typical Asian rudegirl, Rina within minutes, adding to the hilarity.
The coming together of Kali Theatre, Black Country Touring and Arts Alive has created a fun-filled, touching play surrounding the universal themes of family and love, appealing to all audiences.
With the play culminating in a bit of dancing for both the actors and the audience, you are guaranteed to leave with a big smile on your face and a belly full of cake, which is always the sign of a great wedding party!
*’My Big Fat Cowpat Wedding’, by Sayan Kent, is not expected to return to theatres now until 2016 For information see, Kali Theatre page