Lengthy marriage source of comedy and misdemeanours in new play…
AWARD-WINNING playwright Tanika Gupta is one of this country’s most established and reliable practitioners of her art and her new comedy drama, ‘Love N Stuff’, takes off from her last hit, ‘Wah! Wah! Girls’.
In that play about dancing girls, two characters appeared, who have now been given full reign to tell their story.
And what fun it is, playing some 20 characters – just two actors, Tony Jayawardena and Rina Fatania, bring tremendous energy and vitality to some parts more than others (more Gupta’s responsibility than theirs) – and overall the piece is entertaining and enjoyable.
Mansoor and Bindi have been married for 35 years – though there is some doubt between them as to how long they have actually been together. It’s that sort of relationship.
Their stock patter – and a reflection of their familiarity goes something like this…
Mansoor: “You shuttup.”
Bindi: “No, you shuttup.”
It’s knockabout stuff, but the two are essentially lovable and have a good heart, and despite their many failings, which are dramatically exposed, Gupta seems to suggest they are just good people who have lost their way a little.
Mansoor wants to return to India and the whole 90 minute production takes place in the Terminal 3 departure lounge at Heathrow with his budget long haul airline, Desi, beset by a long delay.
Wife-doctor Bindi does not want Mansoor to return to Delhi (where they first met and courted) and turns up armed with her spicy pakoras in a bid to persuade him that home is Stratford, east London, with their two cats.
Their mixed-religion (he, Muslim, she, Hindu) marriage also adds further light touches to their comically strained relations.
Unbeknown to him, Bindi has also enlisted the help of their lodgers and neighbours in a bid to stop Mansoor leaving for the country of his birth.
This basic premise allows much of the action to return and revolve around the central characters – it is essentially their story and while that is all correct and proper – there are two other characters who almost steal the show.
Akbar is a mildly oppressed gay man (though it is never explicitly stated) and has many of the cutest lines – his jilted fiancé back in India has a moustache and it’s the only the thing he likes about her.
Ruby emerges much later but has a pivotal role to play – she is an old neighbour, who is much taken with Eastern philosophy and offers massages to find a person’s inner spirit and spirituality, wink wink.
It is around Ruby that this play’s rich underlay comes to the fore – but before that can be revealed, there is a hilarious scene involving Mansoor and her.
It almost brought the house down on the production that evening. Let’s say Fatania plays it for all its worth and Jayawardena’s understated Mansoor is also beautifully realised.
Gupta’s strengths as a more conventional dramatist surface and the real story behind the couple emerges.
It is tender, sentimental and meaningful, and draws on many contemporary themes, such as how much do women have to give of themselves to pursue an exceptional career and what is a life for a couple without children?
Where Gupta is perhaps a little less assured is with the outright comedy element and the myriad characters that represent the kaleidoscopic nature of London – some are more effective than others and some perhaps, no more than a decoration. It’s great to see that particular wealth London has to offer represented on stage, but under scrutiny, it can also look a little superficial.
Both Jayawardena and Fatania cannot be faulted for any of that, as they give it everything and more, but perhaps there is a case for having a couple of extra actors, who could play the more peripheral parts and inject some necessary distance between all the characters that appear. It can be hard to keep up.
Nevertheless, this is a play where the skill and range of the actors is thoroughly tested and both Jayawardena, and Fatania, give an exceptional account of themselves and they should be applauded boisterously (and were) for bringing ‘Love N Stuff’, so ably to dramatic life.
It is also worth noting that this play is dedicated to the memory of Sophiya Haque who starred in the Wah! Wah! Girls in 2012 and died tragically at the age of 41 earlier this year following complications with a cancer condition.
- ‘Love N Stuff’ by Tanika Gupta, runs until Saturday, October 5 at the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, Gerry Raffles Square, Stratford London E151BN. Tickets £12.50-£15 www.stratfordeast.com.