Everyone looks at things through the prism of their own generation…
By Suman Bhuchar
WHOSE responsibility is it to teach you about your culture?
‘Passing’ by Dan Sareen is probably the first play since ‘East is East’ in1996 that explores what it is like to be of dual heritage in this new play about identity politics.
While then, the Khan siblings discussed whether they were ‘Anglo Indian’ or the ‘P’ word, the current parlance is bi-racial. Maybe the discourse around definition has moved on since 1996 but there seems to be a lot more anxiety around now trying to define yourself.
Another play, ‘Full English’ (2021) by Natalie Davies looked at the experience from the perspective of English women who ended up marrying Asian Men. But overall there has not been much around this subject matter.
In this play Rachel (finely played by Amy Hickman of ‘Ackley Bridge’ fame) is trying to arrange the perfect Diwali party so that the family can come together and learn a bit more about their Indian heritage from an ailing grandfather who is the keeper of the flame so to speak.
It’s a very busy front room: sofas, pictures record collection, record player, diyas, and sitting in the studio space of the venue – Park 90, the audience is very much part of their front room.
Directed by Imy Wyatt Corner, this is an engaging comedy set around one day with the family celebrating Diwali for the first time.
The two siblings Rachel and her brother, David (Kishore Walker) enjoy an entertaining banter. She’s earnest, he is laid back. Ironically the white English boyfriend, Matt (Jack Flammiger) knows more about ‘Asian culture’… than the Singh siblings.
The father, Yash (Bhasker Patel) and mother, Ruth (Catherine Cusack) are liberal parents, but the mother’s character needs more depth – she comes across as woman who cannot pronounce stuff but gives you a samosa.
Dad is also a bit superficial, a man whose main interest is music rather than his ‘Asianness’ but we never learn what drew the couple together.
Obviously, issues of heritage and identity are burning questions and though this play is enjoyable and entertaining, it doesn’t really go into great depths.
The writer and producer Dan Sareen is the ‘Rachel’ character asking these questions (see our interview now or see below) but perhaps it is not really possible to answer them.
Acv rating: Honest, authentic and relatable **** (out of five)
Top caption: Rachel, Dad, Mum (Ruth) – Catherine Cusack; Walker and Matt (Jack Flammiger) All pics: ©MattMartin Shooting Theatre
‘Passing’ by Dan Sareen on until (from November 1) Saturday, November 25
The Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, London N4 3JP.
2 hours 20 mins (with interval)
Video interview – Amy-Leigh Hickman (Rachel Singh) & Dan Sareen (writer)