ANITA AND ME: Adapted by Tanika Gupta.
Theatre Royal: Tkts 0115 989 5555 www.royalcentre-nottingham.co.uk.
Runs: 2h 30m: one interval: till 18th March.
Performance times: 7.30pm, matinees 2.00pm Wed and 2.30pm Sat.
Review: Alan Geary: 14th March 2017.
Thought-provoking mix of comedy, crudity, tragedy and tenderness.
Based on the autobiographical novel by Meera Syal, Anita and Me is about British-born daughter of middle-class Indian immigrants, Meena, reaching adolescence in a Black Country ex-mining village.
It’s not a musical, more a play with music. An ensemble number introduces everyone at the start; thereafter, at intervals, there’s a cultural mix of sometimes ragged song and dance – we even get some morris dancing. And since this is the seventies, there are, not over-done, chopper bikes and flares.
This isn’t simply East meets West. There’s neighbourly tolerance juxtaposed with sometimes violent xenophobic bigotry; the Hindu idea of a God with many manifestations versus a comically strident and patronising fundamentalist Christianity; education opposed to ignorance; aspirational middle class versus dysfunctional working class; the death of a community; and more.
One of the best scenes is when kindly Mrs Worrall (Therese Collins) from next door tells Meena about life in the village during the war, before the mining industry had collapsed.
It happens on a super red-brick terraced street set, easily adaptable for other locations, most dramatically for a canal near-drowning scene near the end, actually a melodramatic bolt-on that’s out of kilter with the rest of the play.
Aasiya Shah is excellent as the gawky adolescent protagonist, torn between family and the values of the street. Robert Mountford gives a stand-out performance as Shyam, her wise and cultured father – he reminds one of Atticus Finch. In one scene in particular Mountford moves us with a fine singing voice; and as well as providing some terrific comedy Rina Fatania, the uncouth visiting Grandmother Nanima, has one of the most touching speeches of the evening.
Some acting, especially in the yoof parts, is a trifle over-emphatic, but Laura Aramayo is good as Meena’s dragged-up friend Anita, who’s taking after her abused mother, the tarty Mrs Ormerod (Rebekah Hinds).
This is a thoughtful, and thought-provoking, mix of comedy, crudity (at one point surely borderline gratuitous), tragedy and tenderness. A lot’s changed since the seventies but it still speaks to us. And it’s thoroughly entertaining.
Anita: Laura Aramayo.
Sam Cole: Sam Lowbridge.
Mrs Worrall: Therese Collins.
Nanima: Rina Fatania.
Daljit: Shobna Gulati.
Mrs Ormerod/Deirdre: Rebekah Hinds.
Aunty Shaila/Fortune Teller: Sejal Keshwala.
Tracey/Sandy: Megan McCormick.
Shyam: Robert Mountford.
Ned/Bazzer: Tom Oakley.
Pinky: Humera Syed.
Meena: Aasiya Shah.
Uncle Amman/Mr Bhatra: Aaron Virdee.
Claire Worboys: Mrs Lowbridge.
Director: Roxana Silbert.
Associate Director: Daniel Bailey.
Set and Costume Designer: Bob Bailey.
Lighting Designer: Chahine Yavroyan.
Composers and Sound Designers: Ben and Max Ringham.