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Kali talkback: Four plays show strengths and shocks

Kali talkback: Four plays show strengths and shocks

January 27 2016

Leading Asian women’s theatre company Kali hosted its annual talkback series, a strand for emerging playwrights, at the Tristan Bates Theatre in central London recently (January 11-23) and we were there to see half of those new works…

stateless-036page1Stateless” by Subika Anwar – To thee my country…
WE are in Retford, a small village in Nottinghamshire and ‘Denny’ (Simon James Bailie), quite recently departed from the Army and active service in Afghanistan, is the security guard at a low level mental health facility.
There is his rather untrusting and patronising boss (David Michaels) – whom we only hear, never see and then there is ‘Kat’ (Shanaya Rafaat) who is on a biking holiday and gets caught in atrocious weather, hurts herself and lands up at Denny’s door.
Subika Anwar’s play is an original, tense, finely delivered piece of theatre and all the more impressive for a young playwright/director/actor still making her way.
Denny is a little smitten – Kat’s warm and friendly and very understanding. He offers to show her around when he clocks off. Denny’s a soft lad; he is one of those nice soldiers who doesn’t really like fighting, just helping people – as we see in those ads all the time. Kat spills her life story and you think there is a romantic connection…Anwar’s skill is to play with all this, twist it around and throw it back in your face – Afghanistan, War, family loyalty and geopolitics all help to make this a hugely stimulating production with tight central performances.It deserves further life – because a lot of people will delight at both the nuances and the shocking plot twist.(SR)
ACV rating:**** (out of five)

herself-037adjShe is not Herself” Veronica J Dewan – Loving the dark child…
TWO women meet in a small bedsit for the very first time – one is 50+ and the other is at least half her age, if not younger. They are mother and daughter. It all opens very promisingly. The white mother – Jules (Maggie O’Brien) and her mixed race daughter – Anouk (Amina Zia) do not make the easiest of companions. Anouk was given up for adoption and lived with a white family for much of her life. Jules has a thriving existence in France – money and the comfort and freedom it brings.
There is much tension, much misunderstanding and tender moments are often negated by coldness and spite – especially from Anouk. O’Brien is excellent as the person who feels guilty and wants to make repairs.
Zia is less assured and sure, her character has her own neuroses and complexities, but too much is left hanging in a theatrical sense and the play sometimes builds tension only to let it dissipate with strange and unnatural tangents.
Dewan, herself a mixed race adopted child, does half the job and has a good story to tell, but Anouk or her portrayal don’t quite rise to the game, whereas O’Brien is a tour de force and you want to see more. (SR)
ACV rating: **1/2

sweets+chooclatesSweets and Chocolate” by Shazia Ashraf – Hidden hurt
DON’T let the title fool you. This is a hard hitting play which aims to address a topic that we’re all too familiar with but still don’t openly discuss…paedophilia.
It’s something we silently pray the children in our lives never become a victim of but not necessarily something we want to hear all of the gritty details about.
Ashraf aims to explore this taboo subject through the lives of three very different women who are all affected by paedophilia. Whether it’s experiencing it, witnessing it, or even actively being a part of it. Bound by the effects of a family friend, the Reverend at their Church or their father, they all suffer the effects of having a powerful man in their lives that they can do nothing to stop. However, the word ‘paedophilia’ isn’t mentioned once and is mostly inferred by actions with none of the women actually being able to say it. Nevertheless, it can still shock you and keep you captivated with certain theatrical elements that make you wonder what is being said between the lines.
Sweets and Chocolate” takes you through a rollercoaster of emotions and hits you in an unexpected way. (TM) (Picture l-r) M’Bilia Bel (Marva Alexander), Nadia (Paige Carter), Catherine (Joanna Croll)
ACV Rating: ***

sweetsandchoclatesadjustedSplinter” by Abhi Arumbakkam – A woman desires…
IT’S safe to say that Durga (Shobu Kapoor) is the focal point of this short play, which explores the life of a divorced Asian woman in her sixties who is struggling to find companionship.
Set in one place, while Durga and her ex-husband, Vishnu (Neil D’Souza) prepare for their daughter’s birthday, we sense the tense relationship between them while Durga prods Vishnu for details of his latest girlfriend.
Now throw in a couple of reluctant guests: their daughter’s ex-boyfriend and Vishnu’s former crush and this is all a disaster waiting to happen.
However, the forced interactions and an awkward game of pass-the-parcel (with sex toys as prizes) becomes a hilarious watch, as Durga’s increasingly inebriated state causes discomfort amongst her guests. Despite the hilarity, there are also a few deeper moments where Durga expresses her sexual frustration and no longer feeling attractive – which she describes as a “permanent splinter deep inside.”
Writer, Abhi Arumbakkam, beautifully and funnily, touches upon many topics from different generational differences on sex to the effects of ageing in a play which holds a shocking twist at the end. (TM)
ACV Rating: ****

Reviews by: Sailesh Ram, Tasha Mathur

Previews and interview with Janet Steel (artistic director Kali) and Subika Anwar

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture