Birmingham and Tour
Elephant: Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti
Birmingham Rep Theatre, The Door and Tour
Runs: 1h 30m, no interval, at the Rep till, 3 March
Bham Rep BO: 0121 236 4455
Review: Rod Dungate, 22 02 18
The surface may shine, but beware of what lies beneath.
Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti explores the darker side of human nature in her plays; and, given her background, does it within the British Sikh culture. This has sometimes got her into hot water. Excellent. Playwrights should make waves.
ELEPHANT is no exception. An estranged sister, Vira, returns home to come to the goodbye party of her niece. There are tensions between the two sisters, and between Vira and her brother-in-law, while Vira is seen as wild and adventurous by her niece and nephew. Bhatti forensically examines, almost in an Ibsen-like way, the effect of truth on the family, and the way wider society’s conventions affect that truth, usually not for the better.
Bhatti’s writing is direct and energetic. However, it is weakened by a lack of depth, of multi-layering – the thing Ibsen was so expert at. So, despite brilliantly committed performances from the acting team, characters tend to the superficial and switch direction too quickly and with insufficient reason. It is as if Bhatti approaches the difficult topics boldly, but then runs away from them. Bhatti constructs a terrifically chilling ending, but it is one that is difficult to believe.
Having said this, there is plenty going on to hold our attention; this is not a play in which your mind starts wandering. Sukh Oila creates a spikey, unsettling Vira who gains in strength as the story progresses. Lucy Morrison directs with pace and energy, though there are times it would have been helpful for the journey to have slowed down a little, giving the characters room to breathe.
Barry: Ezra Faroque Khan
Vira: Sukh Oila
Amy: Ragni shama
Deesh: Yasmin Wilde
Director: Lucy Morrison
Assistant Director: Madeleine Kludie
Designer: Camilla Clarke
Sound Designer: Clive Meldrun
Lighting Designer: Zoe Spur
Casting Director: Lotte Hines
Fight Director: Alison de Burgh