KHANDAN – Birmingham Rep and Royal Court

KHANDAN: Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti
Birmingham Rep (in association with the Royal Court Theatre)
Runs: 2h 15m, one interval

Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 28 05 14

Engaging, but that’s as far as it goes.
Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s third play for Birmingham Rep holds up a mirror to aspects of Indian culture as is coexists within the modern Western culture. This juxtaposition is not free from difficulty and Bhatti’s play exposes some of the challenges. In doing this it’s a successful piece of theatre. Where it is not so successful, though, is in its lack of challenge for its audience. Bhatti moves no argument forward, seems to have no point of view to offer; her play offers us the slice of life and leaves it at that.

Widowed Jeeto lives with her son Pal and daughter-in-law, white, Liz. Her daughter Cookie
visits frequently with her husband Major. Jeeto’s brother still lives in India, his son is a drug-taking alcoholic, so Jeeto’s brother’s daughter-in-law is sent to live with Jeeto’s family. Pal sells the family shop in order to set up a nursing-home for elderly Asian people. And this is where it all begins to go wrong.

Rich potential here for real debate. But Bhatti veers away from confronting the issues. For instance why, with all the talk of money and land in India, is the rocketing prices of land in India not part of the debate? Why, with Cookie’s marriage clearly loveless, does her close relationship with her childhood friend (her chink in the gloom), Tariq, turn out to be solely platonic? And do we really believe that Cookie becomes a loving wife and mother because of the sight of Reema’s illegitimate son (it’s Pal’s baby.) Focus is lost during the action – is this Pal’s journey or Jeeto’s?

All a bit of a shame because the family relationships are created with care and attention to detail by the acting team. Moments of truth are greeted with painful recognition by the audience.

Sudha Buchar creates Jeeto – ruling the roost through a subtle authority. Rez Kempton creates a Pal you can have real empathy with – particularly when he ends up where he started from – except with no money and a pile of debt.

Roxana Silbert directs with sensitivity, bringing out welcome moments of humour where they exist; though the production feels under-powered at times.

All-in-all a pleasant enough evening’s entertainment; it’s just that vibrant theatre needs something more than a stand-alone episode of soap.

Jeeto: Sudha Bhuchar
Liz: Lauren Crace
Major: Neil D’Souza
Reema: Preeya Kalidas
Pal: Rez Kempton
Cookie: Zita Sattar

Director: Rozana Silbert
Designer: Jamie Vertan
Lighting Designer: Chahine Yavroyan
Sound Designer: Giles Thomas
Visual and Prohject Designer: Nathan Jones
Casting Director: Julia Horan
Assistant Director: Erin Gilley
Voice and Dialect Coach: Zabarjad Salam
Design Assistant: Gayatri Jani

2014-05-30 10:26:40

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