Tag Archives: Adam Samuel-Bal

Just My Cup of Chai


Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Tuesday 24th April, 2018


Marivaux’s 18th Century French farce, The Game of Love and Chance, gets an update from Tara Arts and Nigel Planer of The Young Ones, no less.  It’s a remarkably good fit, translating the action from the French bourgeoisie to a present-day Indian family in Britain, where notions of class and caste dictate social mores and aspirations.  Widowed Kamala-Ji is keen to marry off daughter Rani, who is a successful, independent young woman who works as a solicitor.  Rani wishes to retain her independence until she can marry for love, if there is such a match to be made.  She faces pressure from trashy cousin Sita, who contrasts with Rani in every way possible.  A prospective groom is on his way to size up his potential wife… Rani and Sita concoct a plan to switch identities and do some sizing up of the groom for themselves.  Unbeknownst to them, the groom has hatched an identical plan and has switched with his unlicensed Uber driver…

The script is peppered with bang up-to-date references along with Punjabi (I think it is) words and phrases but the performance style is all traditional.  There is a declamatory aspect to the delivery, direct audience address, and much heightened posing and posturing.  The characters are drawn with broad strokes and the action is almost cartoonish at times.  It is, all of it, hilarious.

Director Jatinder Verma has an eye for comic detail and doesn’t miss a trick, keeping things snappy so this fabulous confection has no opportunity to stale.  The action is broken up with Bollywood song-and-dance numbers, all performed with gusto and fun – where the French originals would have featured courtly masques or brief balletic interludes.  Claudia Mayer’s set gives us a garden of privet archways for the comings and goings, with a backdrop of suburban semis peering over the top.  Her costumes strongly signal the characters (and their disguises) and there is a glorious nod to Marivaux in the finale, courtesy of designer Adam Wilshire.

Goldy Notay is absolutely delicious as matriarch Kamala-Ji, with Deven Modha great fun as Rani’s camp brother Sunny.  Ronny Jhutti throws himself into the role of Nitin – the driver masquerading as the groom – with relish, while both Kiren Jogi’s Sita and Sharon Singh’s Rani clearly differentiate when they are pretending to be each other.  Singh is especially good, bringing more than a hint of snobbishness a la Penelope Keith to her portrayal of the snitty Rani.  Adam Samuel-Rai makes an energetic, passionate, even neurotic suitor, as the handsome Raj.  The entire ensemble rises to the demands of this kind of material, popping off quickfire asides and larger-than-life reactions with skill.

This fast and funny production reminds us that the old theatrical forms and conventions still have currency and that people have much in common whatever their cultural background.  A fabulous treat of a show; I loved every second.

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Adam Samuel-Bal and Sharon Singh wrestling (with their emotions)

My Big Fat Indian Wedding


Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Tuesday 26th April, 2016


Katrina is a doctor – the trouble is she’s 32 and unmarried.  She’s off home to India to attend the wedding of her brother – her younger brother – and longs for the kind of romance she sees in Bollywood movies.  Unrealistic, silly, breath-taking romance.  On the plane, she encounters Ranbir, off on a spiritual mission in aid of his sick father.  Ranbir carries an urn of ashes with him as he mourns for a lost relationship…

These two are our narrators for the piece, both of them accessible and likeable characters.  We know they are destined to end up together as soon as they lay eyes on each other, but we enjoy seeing them work this out for themselves.

As Katrina, Sohm Kapila does a nice line in sardonic, deadpan humour.  You can’t help liking her.  Adam Samuel-Bal’s Ranbir is the handsome romantic lead, albeit a geeky, inhibited English one.  We meet her family and his friend and the complications set in, setting the stage for a My Big Fat Greek Wedding-style rom-com, with ethnic humour and the clash of cultures.  There is even a bit of Goldsmith’s She Stoops To Conquer in the mix, when Ranbir and his mate Amit (Rishi Nair) are hoodwinked into thinking Katrina’s parents’ home is a hotel.  In fact, the plot is an all-you-can-eat buffet of comic conventions: deceptions, mistaken identities, misunderstandings…

The funniest scenes are between Katrina’s parents, Colonel Sundar (Rohit Gokani) and Lalita, the professional matchmaker (Sakuntala Ramanee) who bicker and verbally spar with expert timing.  Excellent, both of them.  Here, the script by Samir Bhamra and Steve Nijjar is at its sharpest.  The pair are hardly a good advertisement for the arranged marriages they strive to set up for everyone else!

The action is interrupted by song and dance numbers in the Bollywood style – energising, upbeat, very camp numbers (choreography by Subhash Viman) and at first, they don’t serve the drama or develop character, as we would expect in musical theatre.  Later, as the drama unfolds, this is not the case: characters perform solos and duets: Kapila and Samuel-Bal are in fine voice, although Rishi Nair’s vocals struggle somewhat to match the quality.  Nair makes up for this with some expert reactions, including spit-takes.  Also, playing it broad is Bhavin Bhatt as Katrina’s brother Lucky, a womanising mummy’s boy, flirting with members of the audience.  Nikkita Chadha’s Rekha, with an enthusiasm for the melodramatic, is more than a pretty face in a pretty outfit, delivering her lines with charm and killer timing.

Director Samir Bhamra uses cinematic conventions from the genre (like slow-mo) while heightening the theatricality of the piece.  Some moments don’t come across: there is a ghost story, for example, that doesn’t cut it, but the likeability of the ensemble carries us through the odd patchy bit.

Never less than amusing, often hilarious, Bring On The Bollywood proves to be an irresistible banquet of fun.


Bring it on: One of the more sober moments!

Kin Dread


Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Tuesday 31st April, 2015


The blood of the title refers in the main to family – as in ‘blood is thicker than water’ (a saying that’s never made complete sense to me. Who has water in their veins?)

This new play by Emteaz Hussain is a two-hander, charting the relationship of young Pakistanis Caneze and Sully. Caneze (Krupa Pattani) aspires to be a pharmacist and make something of herself. That all goes out the window when Sully (Adam Samuel-Bal) climbs in. He’s a streetwise urban poet type, with his hat on backwards but his heart in the right place. They meet in the college canteen, have their first date in Nando’s… It’s a fast-moving, funny and slick portrait of young love. Hussain’s writing captures the patter and lingo of contemporary youth slang and posturing, set against a backdrop of old-school values, traditions and attitudes.

Things turn serious when Caneze’s dangerous brother Saif finds out about their trysts and sets his heavies on Sully. The couple split – until things go too far and Sully asserts himself and his love for Caneze.

It’s beautifully played. The cast of two are equally skilled and appealing. Krupa Pattani portrays different characters as though she is suddenly possessed by them, slumping back to Caneze when the spirit leaves her. Adam Samuel-Bal makes you believe the unseen characters he’s addressing are on stage with him. At any minute, you think bad guy Saif could walk onto the set.

Sara Perks’s set is mainly overlapping rectangles that reveal doors and compartments, drawers and cupboards, depending on the scene. It’s all stylishly lit by Aideen Malone – incorporating mood lighting into the construction of the set. It’s inventive and evocative.

Director Esther Richardson serves the writing well, handling the sometimes swift changes of location and character so that we are never unsure of where we are and who is talking to us. Top marks, though, must go to the cast who run the gamut of emotions and experience with energy and commitment, taking us along with them, until we care about the star-cross’d lovers and their fate. There is a pattern to Hussain’s script, almost a cycle, so you get the impression that the lovers are caught up in something bigger than themselves, bigger than everything.

Blood is funny, touching and thrilling. A big feather in the cap of Tamasha theatre company and the Belgrade.