BEHUD To 8 May.

London.

BEHUD
(Beyond Belief)
by Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti.

Soho Theatre 21 Dean Street W1 To 8 May 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 3pm.
Audio-described 27 April.
Captioned 29 April 7.30pm.
Runs 1hr 45min One interval.

TICKETS: 020 7478 0100.
www.sohotheatre.com
Review: Timothy Ramsden 15 April.

Playwright’s nightmare in a room with enough doors for a farce.
Anyone with the inner urge to write a play, re-draft it, see it through rehearsal and into performance either has an over-massive ego or is going to go through days and nights of doubt if not sorrow. And that’s before audiences and reviewers get to have their say.

If they ever do. What must it be like if the play’s cut-off as soon as it’s opened, with protesters threatening and abusing the writer? That happened to Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti with Bezhti (‘Shame’) in Birmingham during 2004, where male protests among Bhatti’s fellow Sikhs over her perceived betrayal of their culture led to the production’s cancellation after a disrupted press night.

What’s a playwright to make of this? Well, a scintillating display of technique if they’re Tom Stoppard, and Bhatti doesn’t have a bad go. Beyond the words, which slip and slide as T S Eliot described, characters take on an independent life as her fictional counterpart Tarlochan questions herself while seeing her new play’s production slip away from her.

Amid the proceedings,notebook in hand, Tarlochan keeps rewriting action (which is re-played, accordingly, onstage) and loses herself in her characters. Even the central Man and Woman of her earlier play start questioning what’s happening to their scenes as they’re drafted into the new script.

Around them there’s a controversy involving the non Asian-British characters, local councillor (Lucy Briers displaying a fine sense of comedy in this ‘type’ role) and subsidised theatre director (John Hodgkinson, plausibly explaining Andrew Fleming’s shifts of ground). And the argument between Ravin J Ganatra’s dignified elder Mr Sidhu with his peaceful means of protest, siren calls for script changes plus talk of the play destabilising diversity, and the younger proponents of direct action, given a committed urgency by Shiv Grewal and Avin Shah.

Chetnya Pandya’s Tarlochan mixes the comedy of a confused playwright with serious concerns for her creations in Lisa Goldman’s direction of a co-production with Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre. Without some knowledge of the Bezhti affair, Behud might well be difficult to follow, but it’s a believable dramatisation of a sometimes comic, always anxious situation.

Tarlochan Kaur Grewal: Chetnya Pandya.
DCI Vincent Harris/Andrew Fleming: John Hodgkinson.
DI Gurpal Singh Mangat/Khushwant Singh Bains: Avin Shah.
Satinder Shergill/Girl: Priyanga Burford.
Mr Sidhu: Ravin J Ganatra.
Amrik/Man: Shiv Grewal.
Joanne Stevenson: Lucy Briers.

Director: Lisa Goldman.
Designer: Hannah Clark.
Lighting: Richard G Jones.
Sound: Matt McKenzie.
Projections: Douglas O’Connell.
Movement: Ann Yee.
Dialect coach: Jan Haydn Rowles.
Fight director: Bret Yount.

2010-04-21 15:43:29

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