Tag Archives: Ravin J Ganatra

Laila

(reviewed at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich on 27 April)

It is said that there are only five basic plots from which to construct a story. Young love thwarted by a combination of family, political and cultural pressures is surely one of these. In the West, we probably think of those star-crossed lovers Juliet and Romeo. In the East, there is the story of Laila and Qays.

Laila, the new musical from Rifco in association with the Palace Theatre, Watford and the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch has a fusion score by Sumeet Chopra, played under the direction of Benjamin Holder, lyrics by Dougal Irvine and a script by Pravesh Kumar. Choreography is by Cressida Carré, and is also a fusion of Indian classical and western modern steps and gestures.

The stry begins today, with a young British Asian girl Laila (Mona Goodwin) refusing her father(Ravin J Ganatra)’s injunction to marry the man he (but not she) has selected with due regard to that dangerously nebulous concept of honour. Then we step back several hundred years to a kingdom ruled by a man who has fought his way to his crown and now has a crown prince waiting impatiently for his turn.

Qays (Reece Babia), his father (Surrinder ‘Shin’Singh Parwana) and his cousin are the dispossessed previous ruling family; they are concerned that Qays’ passion for Laila will bring further destruction to them. But love will find a way – particularly young love seeing only black and white, and never the grey nuances so apparent to their elders.

The designer of the sparse set with its billowing drapes transforming from palace pillars to wind-scorched desert to ferocious flood is Libby Watson. There’s a shadow puppet sequence by Matthew Robins which is effective but needs a little more subtlety of manipulation (hands too visible) and atmospheric lighting designs by Philip Gladwell.

Goodwin, Bahia, Parwana and Ganatra are all effective in making their characters live and there’s a nice study of Laila’s maid by Sheena Patel. Sufi singer Asif Raza dominates some of the musical nubers; for my ears, the whole thing is somewhat over-miked, but that seems normal for musicals of all genres nowadays.

Laila runs at the New Wolsey Theatre, Watford until 30 April with a matinée on 30 April. It also plays at the Arts Theatre Cambridge (9-14 May) and the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch (17-21 May).

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Filed under Music & music theatre, Reviews 2016

Coming Up

(reviewed at the Palace Theatre, Watford on 14 October)

I remember Neil D’Souza’s first play A Small Miracle from its Colchester production a few years ago. it was a quirky exploration of pilgrimage, longing and just a couple of things which cannot easily be explained away by rationality. Coming Up also deals with longings, journeys both mental and physical and quite a few inexplicable things. The title refers to an India catch-phrase signifying social mobility and the ladder of success. Ladders, as everyone who has ever played a board game knows, also have snakes.

We are in India, a time-shift country in more senses than one. The action takes place partly in present-day Mumbai, now a thriving economic hot-spot – at least, if you’re on the top of the go-getting heap. We are also, frequently at the same time, in rural Mangalore between 1938 and 1943 as well as in a narrative time limbo. Director Brigid Larmour, movement director Shona Morris and designer Rebecca Brower have eschewed naturalism for a fluidity which is neither wholly Indian nor completely Western.

D”Souza plays Alan Lobo, a middle-aged British Asian now successful in business, and ruthless with it. He’s in Mumbai to see if shifting his enterprise to the Philippines will be worthwhile; it’s all down to the bottom line. He has also taken the opportunity to visit his aunt Alice (Goldy Notay) and renew his boyhood friendship with her son Daniel (Mitesh Soni). The names tell you that this is a Christian family.

Clambering to the top in business often has to be a ruthless, single-minded affair. Alan’s casualties include his estranged father Jacob (Ravin J Ganatra as the older man, Notay as a boy), Alan’s wife Anya and his call-centre manager – and occasional mistress – Hanna (Clara Indrani). Christian India may have said that it ignored the caste system, but the Lobo family’s status as mere farm labourers automatically relegate him to the bottom of the heap, even as an altar boy scrubbing latrines rather than attending class.

The two priests of Pezar parish are the authoritarian, not to say sadistic and libidinous, Fr Mendoza (Ganatra) and the twoo-soft-for-his-own-good Fr Alvares (Soni). Ganatra takes on the part of Ghalib, Alan’s Mumbai driver. Indrani additionally plays teacher Mrs Pereira, the thoroughly unpleasant cook who torments young Jacob and a sinuous man-eating tiger who prowls through both his dreams and his reality.

It may all sound incredibly complicated, but this style of staging allows the action to flow and the changes in location to evolve without physical scene changes. A sari, androgynous shirts and loose trousers switch Indrani and Notay effortlessly between rôles and sexes; a crucifix or stole marks the priest from the layman. The acting is uniformly good and Arun Ghosh’s soundscape makes fine use of the Schubert “Ave Maria”.

Coming Up continues at the Palace Theatre, Watford until 24 October.

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Filed under Plays, Reviews 2015