Tag Archives: Ishy Din

Fare Play

APPROACHING EMPTY

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Wednesday 20th March, 2019

 

Ishy Din’s new play is set in a small taxi firm in the North East, run by brothers Raf and Mansha.  The death of Thatcher has just been announced but, as we see from the way the action pans out, her legacy did not die with her.  Hard-nosed businessman Raf, obviously ailing from something, offers to let his brother buy him out.  Mansha seizes what seems to be a great opportunity, finding financial support to seal the deal from son-in-law Sully, and cab-driver Sameena.  The trio have big plans for the business except it quickly transpires they have been sold a pig in a poke…

It’s a conventional piece in terms of structure and presentation, but what sets it apart is how it brings the British-Asian experience to the fore.  Din’s writing is well-observed, naturalistic yet emotionally charged, and the characters are imbued with authenticity, thanks to the strong script and the excellent cast.

Kammy Darweish is superb as the downtrodden but optimistic Mansha, a man sold a dream that turns out to be a dud.  He could have wandered in from an Arthur Miller (All My Cabbies, perhaps, or Death Of A Taxi Operator) while Nicholas Khan is in perfect contrast as the smartly clad, tough-talking Raj.  Rina Fatania’s embattled and determined Sameena, working hard to get her kids back, is marvellous: we see how the attractiveness of the dream, the enticement of greed, can offer hope, and how devastating an effect it can have.  Nicholas Prasad is excellent as son-in-law Sully in a nuanced and credible portrayal, and there are powerful moments from Karan Gill as Shazad, Raf’s son, endangered by his father’s business practices.  Maanuv Thiara brings a touch of dark comedy and plenty of menace as Sameena’s thug brother, the true face of Thatcher’s legacy.

Director Pooja Ghal uses the close confines of Rosa Maggiore’s set to add to the tension.  The characters have little room for manoeuvre figuratively and literally, and when violence erupts it is all the more effective.

As TV commentary from Thatcher’s funeral drones on in the background, the play speaks to us today.  You can’t put money before people, is what it boils down to.  Making a living is important but making a killing makes you a c*nt.

A thoroughly absorbing drama, powerfully presented.  I’m tempted to say Ishy Din is the Asian David Mamet (and mean it as a compliment) but that would be a disservice to Din’s own distinctive voice.

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Nicholas Prasad, Rina Fatania and Kammy Darweish (Photo: Helen Murray)

 

 

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Barnstormers

WIPERS

Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Thursday 12th May, 2016

 

Ishy Din’s new play, co-produced by the Belgrade with Leicester’s Curve Theatre and Watford’s Palace Theatre, is a good fit for the B2 space.  Isla Shaw’s impressive set brings us inside a barn near the French town of Ypres.  Rafters spread like the ribs of a wrecked ship or a beached whale, as though the armies at war around it are fighting over something that’s already dead.  With atmospheric lighting by Prema Mehta and sound design by Jon Nicholls that enables to imagine the conflict raging offstage, the scene is set for an engaging and powerful drama.

Into the barn come commanding officer Thomas (Jassa Ahluwalia) and Sadiq (Simon Rivers), following orders to secure the location.  An appealing Ahluwalia convinces as the young toff, out of his depth – even his salutes betray his nervousness.  Rivers’s Sadiq is more practical, a professional soldier.  They are joined by Sartaj Garewal as AD and, later, Waleed Akhtar as Ayub.  Humour comes from the clash of cultures and the language barrier.  Subtly, the actors use different accents depending on who they’re conversing with.  Ahluwalia is ‘teddibly, teddibly’ upper class Brit – when the men speak to him, their Indian accents are thicker.  When the men speak among themselves, they’re ordinary, working class blokes.

Rivers and Garewal are especially strong – perhaps that’s unfair: this is an excellent quartet! – in their heated and often very funny exchanges.  Through contact with these men, Thomas grows in confidence and learns appreciation of their culture, through cuisine and their respect for the fallen.  Din’s tight script enables us to get to know these men, as Thomas gets to know them – it’s reminiscent of Journey’s End, in this respect, so that when they finally leave the barn to face their fate (shades of Blackadder Goes Forth here!) we care about what might become of them.

Director Suba Das slowly winds us up.  Tense moments, loud moments, are contrasted with humour and silence.  It’s a timely reminder of our common humanity: these soldiers fought on our side, even if they weren’t exactly sure what they were fighting for.  In these times of rising resentment against the foreigner using our resources, the play is starkly relevant as well as marking the sacrifice of other nations supporting the British cause during WW1.

More fun than you might expect with emotionally charged, engaging performances, Wipers is a superb addition to the ongoing centennial commemorations of the so-called Great War.

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Plenty to write home about: Jassa Ahluwalia (Photo: Pamela Raith)