Review of new play ‘Speed’…
LIFE can be a cruel and unforgiving place, especially when you are in your 20s and thrown into the boiling social cauldron that London often is.
Debut playwright Iman Qureshi, herself only 27, does well to give a voice to the lost and confused in her play ‘Speed’, which premiered at the Tristan Bates Theatre in Central London on December 3 and continues until Saturday (December 7).
Centred around an Asian speed dating event, Qureshi explores five very different characters, all in some ways trying to avoid the truth about themselves.
They can seem a little hackneyed, but you have to allow for the fact that the play moves briskly, humorously and entertainingly through just 80 minutes; and let it be said, that most stereotypes will contain a glint of truth about them somewhere.
So, perhaps a little predictably there is the obnoxious, arrogant, conceited City banker (Qal, Tariq Jordan); the wayward, and semi-alcoholic Asian pretty girl (Sara, Goldy Notay), who is in denial of her ethnicity; the jilted but extremely loyal and loving ex-boyfriend (Nikesh, Jai Rajani); and the lefty girlfriend (Shalini, Joanna Burnett) who has just broken up with her rich posh white boyfriend; and another man (Sammy, Divian Ladwa), who has been on an extraordinary personal journey.
All of them are looking for love and companionship with…each other of the opposite sex. Therein lies much of the comedy, as one tries to impress the other, with the men as usual making a hash of things.
Qureshi, however, goes beyond the normal terrain of boy doesn’t quite get girl, but still persists – and opens each character up and lets you look inside.
This is rich emotional territory: messy, confused, uncertain and surprising – just as it often is, at that age.
What looks like one thing as a surface with the usual shorthand descriptions – we all know that bankers are insufferable – fall away and give rise to something deeper and more stimulating – none more so than with the character of Sammy (Divian Ladwa).
What looks like no more than a natural anxiety and nervousness around girls and getting his first girlfriend, turns out to be something shot through with poignancy and pathos.
It’s a hard part to play, but Ladwa brings the conflict within, to life and doesn’t overplay his hand, which might be easier to do, considering the fraught circumstances of his character.
The sense of ‘Asianness’ is very light and with a few – not hugely radical – changes it could actually be played ‘white’, but why have bread when you can have panettone, uh? There’s quite enough bread around. The play is a Kali theatre production.
This is a wryly amusing study of relationships, of the damage we can do to each other in the pursuit of this very peculiar, but virtually all encompassing happiness, (as Nikesh states at the beginning), but Qureshi does hold out hope, and offers each of her characters something for their brave step of putting themselves out there – as we all must, in life and love.
Picture: Goldy Notay as Sara in Speed
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* ‘Speed’, Tristan Bates Theatre, until December 7 (sold out) returns only, call box office 020 7240 6283
*Interview with Iman Qureshi about ‘Speed’ and more about Kali Theatre’s upcoming season here, http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/fast-dating-dramatic-take/