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Posts Tagged ‘Rachel Lumberg’

The premiere of this Ayub Khan Din’s play was twenty-five years ago, and it’s set 25 years before that. It was his first play, at least partly based on his own life experiences. In a programme Q&A he suggests in might not have been put on today because of the sensitivities about ‘what we write about ourselves and what people write about us’. That would have been a tragedy, as in this new production by Iqbal Khan it proves to be a timeless reflection on, and illumination of, the British Asian experience. It’s also very funny.

George came to the UK from Pakistan in 1936. He married British native Ella and they have seven children. One is estranged after refusing an arranged marriage, but the other six are still at home, helping out in the family business, a fish & chip shop in Salford. He tries to impose his Muslim traditions but they rebel; they were born and brought up in the UK. One seems to be loyal, another respectful but questioning and three clear rebels. The youngest is lost in his own world, yet to form his views.

The primary issues are circumcision, somewhat late, for youngest Sajit and arranged marriages for Abdul & Tariq to Mr Shah’s daughters. George is determined to exercise what he sees as his rightful authority as their father, but the sons (egged on by their feisty sister Meenah) are resolute that they are British not Pakistani and that these traditions have no place here. A culture clash that perhaps many British Asians experience between the world in which they’ve been brought up and the traditions that their parents brought here with them. George does himself no favours by the way he treats his wife, and her knowledge that there is another wife back in Pakistan. Apart from the 70’s clothes and decor, it could be today.

One of the key’s to the success of this revival is the superb ensemble, banishing memories of the two productions I’ve seen before. Tony Jayawardena and Sophie Stanton are both superb at conveying the cultural tensions George & Ella have to live with, but also the love they have for one another and their children. The six siblings are all terrific at conveying the whole spectrum of loyalty / rebelliousness, and Rachel Lumberg is wonderful as family friend Auntie Annie – she gets some of the best lines, including the play’s best joke, commenting on the gifts Sajit gets after his circumcision.

A great production of what now seems to be a modern classic.

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If you want a musical with showstoppers, dance routines and jazz hands, you’ll be disappointed. Tim Firth’s show is more musical play than musical – quirky, charming and ultimately moving, as warm & cosy as a duvet on a cold winters day. I loved it.

Thirteen-year-old Nicky enters a competition to write about her family – older brother Matt, a seventeen year old goth full of teenage angst, parents Steve and Yvonne, who both seem to be having their own mid-life crisis, grandma May, showing signs of dementia, and aunt Sian, single, carefree, loving life, serial girlfriend. The prize is a family holiday to anywhere in the world, but when she wins she chooses a camping trip!

The holiday proves to be a bit of a disaster, largely because of the weather, though Steve’s handiwork as a bodger is partly to blame. By now, Sian has another boyfriend, Matt’s intense relationship with his girlfriend becomes more on-off, May’s ability to look after herself comes into question and the parents mid-life crises continue. Nicky seems to be the only sane, balanced one, but when the significance of the location to both Steve & Yvonne and May becomes clearer, it brings out the best in the whole family.

There are lovely tunes interwoven with the dialogue, but I wouldn’t call them songs. They do add a lot, though, because feelings and emotions are better conveyed by music. Both book and lyrics (Firth does the lot) are very funny. You really do get to know and love this family of six in a very short time. Richard Kent’s design is a great use of the Minerva space, with a two-story house as a backdrop, but an intimate playing area in front, and in the interval the stage management team work wonders turning it into a muddy wood.

Nicky is the beating heart of the piece and Kirsty Maclaren’s performance is delightful, a totally believable thirteen-year-old. Scott Folan is superb as teenage Matt, often having to change style and behaviour, as teens do. Rachel Lumburg is lovely as the singleton determined to live life to the full, and Sheila Hancock gives us another of her late career character acting gems as May. For the third time in less than a year Clare Burt has captured my heart, with Yvonne hot on the heels of Mrs Harris and Miss Littlewood. This is a rare stage appearance for James Nesbitt who proves what we’re missing in a role which suits his natural charm and likability.

Like last year’s wonderful Flowers for Mrs Harris, this started out in Sheffield. Daniel Evans is at the helm again, creating a feel-good, heart-warming show which deserves a life beyond this second eight-week run, but you’d best get to Chichester just in case.

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