September 5 2015
World tour for a well-received comic two-hander about arranged marriage hits London…
IMAGINE being called into an Asian aunty’s drawing room and then consulted about her son’s potential marriage prospects – with him there and ready to take issue.
This isn’t exactly what happens in “A Brim full of Asha” – a play coming to Britain for the first time after showings in North America – but it isn’t that far off.
Canadian Ravi Jain and his real mum (called, Asha) take to the stage to discuss that perennial favourite – the arranged or assisted marriage, but probably in a way that has never been done before.
“It comes from a true story that happened to me in 2007 (when Ravi was 27),” Ravi told www.asianculturevulture.com. “When I told my friends they were laughing so hard. I said it’s not funny, don’t laugh. They said you have to make it a movie, I don’t know how to make a movie but I will make a play of it.”
A drama student who studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, he set up and runs his own theatre company in Toronto, Why Not Theatre, and the play, which premieres at the Triycle in Kilburn, London from Tuesday (September 8) until September 19, is the first production that is very personal in nature and describes his very own story. The title refers to band Cornershop’s 1997 hit which is about hope and fanstasy.
“The majority of the story takes place in India. I actually went on a trip of my own accord and my parents decided to take a trip as well. They said ‘what’s the problem? We’re there, and you there’.
“Then it was (mimics Indian accent) ‘Oh Ravi, can you come and meet this girl please…”
At the heart of the play is a dialogue about two generations talking to each other, rather than at each other.
The pairing routinely squabble in that way families do, not with any real malice but expressing often sublimated tensions and frustrations.
“We like to poke fun at each other. When I was creating the play, I told my mother, ‘I’ve got this character in this show and it will show what a terrible mother you are’.
“She said: ‘You’re an idiot, if I was on stage and the audience heard my side of the story they would see what a terrible son you are!’”
And so “A Brimful of Asha” was born with his mother taking to the stage for the very first time.
Some of you may yawn and profess not to be impressed or bothered by anything to do with arranged marriages but plays like this explore a cultural subtext that is often worth exploring and remains ripe for discussion and debate.
It’s essentially about two cultures in dialogue but also in dispute and conflict.
“It feels like it’s that thing about living in two cultures, it’s such a beautiful problem.
“Both me and my mum are stuck in two worlds and we’re figuring out how to meet in the middle.
“It’s about that thing that is so invaluable about the culture – it’s given me these roots, these traditions and this moral compass, but I have another way of living that is in total opposition.
“What’s great about the show is that we are both straddling these two worlds and that we both sympathaise with the other’s position but we are still very stubborn people, who don’t want to bend the other way.”
Ravi said he was careful to avoid cultural stereotypes and wanted to explore deeper currents at play and still provide an emotional commentary that connects.
“Asha is my mother’s name and this is the first show that’s my own story.
“It’s really important to me to be very careful about how people would approach the culture. I didn’t want to generalise about arranged marriages and for people to think about Indians negatively, I was very careful about that.
“It’s meaningful because it’s a fight between myself and my mother.”
But it still comes from a good place and of course mother and son are still talking to each other.
“It’s really about hope and love.
“She wants the best for me. I want the best for myself. It’s about a positive thing coming from a very negative challenging dramatic fight that happened between us – but the moral for me is that we rose above it. We can laugh about it and our love is stronger than any of that nonsense and I do love that song…”
Main picture: Ravi and Asha Jain (Erin Brubacher)
‘A Brimful of Asha’ – September 8-19, 7.30pm (3pm Saturday matinee), Tricycle Theatre, 269 Kilburn high Road, London NW6 7JR.
Box office: 020 7328 1000