Tag Archives: Goldy Notay

Just My Cup of Chai

THE GAME OF LOVE AND 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)

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Homeland is where the heart is

THE DISHONOURED

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Wednesday 5th May, 2016

 

This new play by Aamina Ahmad is a mature piece of writing – an impressive debut, a very impressive debut, in fact.  The setting is Lahore, Pakistan in 2009.  Newly decorated Colonel Tariq (Robert Mountford) is fielding job offers, thanks to a mission which saw the demise of a notorious terrorist.  Tariq gets wind that the terrorist may still be alive and so conducts his own investigation to find out the truth.  The search takes him to the red light district where he speaks to young prostitute Shaida (Maya Saroya) who, thanks to the actions of a CIA agent, winds up shot in the head.  The situation begins to unravel for Tariq, striving to assert himself among ever-tightening constraints.  Meanwhile, his wife Farah (Goldy Notay) has secrets of her own the authorities are able to use as leverage…

It’s an absorbing political thriller and feels like a stage adaptation of a television series, something like Homeland or The Night Manager.  Director Janet Steel keeps things theatrical with simultaneous scenes on stage at various points, using sparse scenery and atmospheric lighting to evoke the bigger picture, the city outside the rooms we visit.

As handsome hero Tariq, Robert Mountford is an appealing lead, stricken by external and internal conflict.  As his beautiful wife, Goldy Notay matches him for humour – the volatile dialogue sparks between the couple, and the naturalistic playing rings true.  Also remarkable is Ahmad’s ear for male banter within the context of the undeniably macho genre of the espionage thriller.

Neil D’Souza is excellent as Tariq’s superior, Brigadier Chaudrey, while David Michaels is both friend and foe as CIA man Lowe – epitomising the personal/political tensions of the piece.  Maya Soraya plays the doomed prostitute and her sister, bringing vulnerability and fear in some striking scenes, and there is enjoyable support from Zaqi Ismail as the blunt Captain Gul.

Jai Channa’s music provides an emotive soundtrack, underlining the cinematic or televisual aspects, but is used inconsistently.  All or nothing, I’d say.

What it comes down to is the question of how far will one go, what compromises will one have to make, and how to live with the consequences of one’s choices.  We see Tariq painted into a morally complex corner – he runs out of options.  What will he sacrifice – his status or his personal integrity?

Gripping, intelligent and classy, The Dishonoured is an intriguing piece, excellently presented by Kali Theatre.

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Framed! Robert Mountford as Colonel Tariq