Monday, 4 February 2008

Rafta Rafta - Birmingham Rep

Rafta Rafta by Ayub Kahn-Dinn
Birmingham Rep: 31st Jan – 16th Feb
Directed by: Nicholas Hytner
Reviewed by Helen Chapman

Ayub Khan-Din’s clever adaptation of Bill Naughton’s All in Good Time follows the commotion of two down to earth Indian families in 1960s Bolton after they are brought together by the wedding of their respective son and daughter, However wedded bliss was not all that it was hoped to be as it emerged that after six weeks, the happy couple had not consummated their marriage.

In itself this caused awkward tension between Vina Patel and Atul Dutt, but they also had to contend with the “concern” of their interfering family deciding what needed to be done, making for many hilarious moments as both sets of parents tried to sensitively discuss the issue.

The beauty of this play lies in the portrayal of each relationship and the exploration of past loves, hurts and expectations. It was Eeshwar Dutt, the bridegroom’s father, who stole the show for me. A vivid and energetic performance (by a very competent understudy) revealed a complex character, well known and respected in the community for bringing his family from nothing to a stable and happy home, yet inside that same home, he is unmasked as a proud tyrant, revelling in the downfalls of his family. Feelings of rejection and disappointment remain between father and son, and are handled in an honest yet light hearted way. Meera Syal delivers a fantastic performance as Mrs Dutt as she combines motherly love with strength of character as she helps to bring father and son together, not sparing some heated yet comedy arguments often in the company of Vina’s parents who themselves are covering up a not so straight forward marriage.

A creative and well used set designed by Tim Hatley added to the atmosphere of this play. To open the play, a huge print of a terraced street was lifted to reveal an elaborately decorated (neatly fitting the British perceived stereotype of Indian homes) two storey house bringing each phase to life and allowing a continual flow from scene to scene.

Rafta Rafta is a hilarious play dealing with some real and prevalent issues in today’s family units. The National Theatre have done a great job!

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