Set in Southall in West London, this play shines a very welcome and incisive light on a group of authentic and relatable women…
By Suman Bhuchar
IT’S GREAT to see Tamasha at Hampstead theatre and Satinder Chohan’s play, ‘Lotus Beauty’ finally bring produced as it had a gestation over several years.
‘Lotus Beauty’ directed by Pooja Ghai is her debut production for Tamasha where she took over as artistic director in November 2021 (See our interview with her here).
This play features five South Asian Women of varying ages, who connect at a beauty salon that hardly has any customers (so true) in Southall, run by the statuesque upwardly mobile 50 year old Reita (played by Kiran Landa) who doesn’t look a day over 30, with her hair tied in a bun, wearing sensible medium wedge shoes. A fine advert for her salon.
Sisterhood, solidarity and bitchiness is the order of the day over strip wax and bleach, and Reita is aided by her able sidekick, Tanwant (Zainab Hasan), an illegal Punjabi immigrant who dispenses her wisdom to anyone who will listen and really nails her Desi village/English accent – but sometimes it tends to overpower her.
Then there is Big Dhadhi shortened to ‘BD’ played by Souad Faress, a stoic grandmother who lives with her daughter-in-law Reita and granddaughter Pinky (Anshula Bain), a wayward teenager doing work experience at the salon.
BD doesn’t cut or remove her facial hear as her faith dictates and spends time at the gurdwara (Sikh temple) praying, doing ‘seva’ (service) and indulging in idle gossip. She is not allowed to have her own key to the house.
Finally there is Kamal, (Ulrika Krishnamurti), the cleaner of sensitive and nervous temperament – whose name means ‘Lotus’ – and who has her own inner struggles and hides abuse.
The set designed by Rosa Maggiora is a pink interior of a beauty salon with a reception table and a working top with two doors on stage right going off into private treatment rooms.
It’s rare to see Asian actors across generations on stage and these portraits of Asian Women in Southall are completely familiar.
All these women want something beyond their day to day life – Reita wants to move house to a better area. Tanwant wants to be legal, BD wants to stay where she is, Pinky wants romance and adventure while Kamal craves freedom.
The performers are fantastic and www.asianculturevulture.com enjoyed seeing them all on stage.
The first act is all light-hearted banter as the women chat and bitch and much is made of BD’s facial hair (which could have been subtler) but the tone gets darker during the second act.
No spoilers here, there are some good moments between BD and her granddaughter, Pinky, but she has a more fractious relationship with her mother and their fight is a bit unexpected.
The free printed programme features a timeline of the struggles faced by the South Asian women in the UK and this is particularly pertinent in the grandmother’s story as she relives the harrowing experience of being subject to the ‘Virginity Test’ arriving as a young bride to the UK.
Chohan writes with authenticity about a community she knows well and we can all recognise these women. This is a beautiful play illuminating lives.
Acv rating **** (out of five)
*‘Lotus Beauty’ has received five Offie nominations (Off West End) which celebrates the achievements of independent, fringe and off west end theatre in London. The nominations are for Set Design for Rosa Maggiora; New Play for Satinder Chohan; Director for Pooja Ghai; for Production and Performance Ensemble categories.
‘Lotus Beauty’ by Satinder Chohan, until June 18 – Hampstead Theatre (Downstairs), Eton Avenue, Swiss Cottage, London NW3 3EU.
Box office: 020 7722 9301
More info/tickets: https://www.hampsteadtheatre.com/whats-on/2022/lotus-beauty/