Monday, 25 June 2012

Theatre: A Healing Medium

Saira Khan, Young Journalist, Reviews Victim, Sidekick, Boyfriend, Me by Hilary Bell at Day 4 of Connections at the NT

I found myself in a dark space, furnished with white, haphazardly shaped cubes. Around me resonated the voice of a girl frustrated and defiant, followed by chorusing replies and taunts. The atmosphere was both intense and composed. In front, I saw 16 people dressed in black surrounding her.

I then saw a man handing out cups of coffee to lighting and sound engineers, heard the rustling of a chocolate wrapper and the quiet giggles of one of the crew. I had found myself backstage at the National Theatre, witnessing the 7th play of this year’s Connections Festival.

Victim Sidekick Boyfriend Me is a play about a Girl (Amy Weaver) who is responsible for the death or disappearance of a certain Victim (Jenna Blenkinsop). The Girl is let off uncharged and, when the Victim’s Boyfriend (James Martin) takes her into a Christian youth hostel, she is met with unending forgiveness. At first, she takes this for granted but soon their forgiveness becomes intolerable and she longs for atonement or punishment. They sought to reveal her heartlessness in showing that she accepted the easy way out, and they forced her to feel.

Victim, Sidekick, Boyfriend, Me. Photo: Simon Annand
The professionalism, musicianship and acting of the ~17 year olds of Marine Academy Plymouth was astonishing. Even when the guitar fell slightly off key and the dancing was slightly out of time, it only made the whole production more entertaining. The naturalness of some parts of the performance made the audience feel at ease, laughing at the odd quirky disco moves.

The atmosphere backstage was fun, with jokes, friendly prompting, and the vocal coach making the actors use imaginary vacuum cleaners to clean the stage and impersonate Janice from the television series Friends. But it was always clear the actors took their roles and this opportunity very seriously. They had been practising all day and only had time for a quick lunch – whilst being hassled by journalists -- before finding themselves on stage in a prestigious, and sold out, theatre room.
When asked if she found any part of her character difficult to portray, Amy Weaver replied ‘I struggled to put across the journey from a powerful person to a broken one’. However, on stage, that pervious struggle was impossible to discern. She perfectly embodied the character of the Girl, who, as playwright Hilary Bell put it, ‘cracks and becomes a human being’ towards the end of the play. She reveals this was not only the hardest part to act, but to write, too.

Bell’s intent was to highlight the lack of compassion in today’s society and with crime so easy at hand, she shows us what it costs not to own up to our wrongs. The play explores the themes of forgiveness and revenge, but also accountability. Hilary Bell, although a successful playwright in Australia, told that she had never written for young people before, or so many. 

When asked the difference between writing for younger actors as opposed to more experienced ones, she said ‘acting is like a marathon; those who have experience know how to pace themselves’. Nonetheless, she felt the Marine Academy Plymouth were true to the spirit of the play and loved their enthusiasm. She highlighted that there is great responsibility in a Festival such as this, where the vulnerability of young actors must be taken into account. Not only are they being challenged, but they are also being completely submerged into a world of fiction which they may invariably relate to their own lives.

Victim, Sidekick, Boyfriend, Me. Photo: Simon Annand
Connections is not just beneficial for the young actors in boosting their CVs, it is, as Bell put it, a ‘healing medium’ and a way for them to express themselves. But what is interesting is that it is just as beneficial, new, exciting and challenging for the actors, as it is for the playwright, crew and audience. Connections encourages so many people to be involved in the exposure of fresh talent to the world.


Written by Amber Henry

In the wake of Saturday night's productions, the Connections Festival is relatively quiet, starting to prepare for tonight's plays after a Sunday break. Relative, in contrast to the sounds of the last performances, complete with creepy backing tracks, laughter, applause, occasional shrieks (mine), Chinese chanting, and the general excited noise present in and around the Cottesloe, part of the National Theatre, during the last set of performances. 

But now with Saturday's programme past, and with the final day of The Festival tonight, I thought it a good idea to look at where the theatre groups involved in Saturday's production came from, how they got to the Connections Festival, and from their stories how others might be inspired to get involved, or even try again. 

Group 64 and Marine Academy were the stars of Saturday night’s showcase, and both won their place through auditions. The auditions involve over a dozen local groups converging to a local theatre, performing the same play in front of National Theatre directors and writers, who decide on which group will take that play onto the Connections Festival. 

For Marine Academy, their audition was the first time the company performed a full scale production, and up against youth theatres with more experience, they won! When asked how the process was, performing for the first time in front of such a big audience, ‘nerve racking’, ‘exciting’, and also ‘fun’ were the main responses, and backstage before their national theatre performance, the feelings were no different, the cast nervous and enjoying themselves in equal measure – and perhaps ‘hungry’ could be included; the interviews were conducted during their lunch break. The Connections performance was only their second, although hopefully not the last, and a bigger step up from the auditions, performing to an absolutely packed to the brim Cottesloe Theatre. Backstage before the show the actors shared lots of laughs, seemingly fuelled by both nerves and friendship. They attribute being able to perform on a major stage, despite their newcomer status, to being a close, supportive unit; many joined the company together  after meeting in drama class at school in Plymouth.

Group 64 from Putney, London, are closer geographically, but had their own journey to get to the Connections Festival. Last year the company auditioned  but just missed out on the final cut. They were disappointed not to be going to The National Theatre, but were glad they got involved with Connections, describing the audition itself as an amazing experience. The London auditions take place at the Lycra, but all the auditions throughout the country are a unique opportunity for youth companies, no matter their size or experience, to get onto a big stage, get experience, meet other local performers and theatre professionals and make an impression. Hopefully groups will go onto perform at Connections, but theatre companies get those benefits, regardless of the result of the auditions. So despite the disappointment of missing out on a place in 2011, the positive experience of the audition and chance to perform at Connections drove Group 64 to re-audition. They went back to the Lyrca this year, won their auditions, and finally performed at The National Theatre with a sold out show. “Chuffed” to get through, members of the Group describe a similar setting to Marine Academy’s, and speak affectionately of their company as a close knit  group of dedicated aspiring actor creating a the mutually supportive environment which helped the company persevere with their ambitions to perform at The Connections Festival. 

The experiences of both Marine Academy and Group 64 show two great things about getting involved with Connections.

Firstly, its open to all young companies of all experiences, from small drama school classes or bigger youth theatres; everyone has an equal opportunity to perform at the auditions or at The National Theatre, and like Marine Academy proves, those

Additionally, every group that participates in the auditions, whether they go through to the National Theatre or just miss out on a place, benefit from and enjoy the process of the auditions. Group 64 did, so much so that they came back and got a show at the festival!  So it's well worth getting involved, either for the first time or trying again; you never know what could happen or where it could take you!   

Youth Theatre is Great (and so is Socialism)

Aren Goetcherian, Young Journalist, rounds up Day 4 of Connections at the NT

On Saturday we were privileged enough to see two more examples of great writing and great performances. ‘Victim Sidekick Boyfriend Me’, performed by Marine Academy Plymouth, looked at the ability to slip through the cracks after doing something wrong, and the consequences of doing so, while ‘Socialism is Great’, performed by Group 64, from London, looked at the widely varying ideals and realities amongst the different classes of modern day China. Both plays were specially written for the Connections Festival, but, perhaps more importantly, both plays were specifically written to be played by young people.

While the youth of the UK are so often criticised, the Connections Festival aims to celebrate youth theatre, and Saturday’s performances certainly proved testament to the hard work of young people. Hilary Bell (writer of ‘Victim Sidekick Boyfriend Me’) said it was ‘a real privilege’ to be able to work in conjunction with the Connections Festival, and with such promising young performers. Anders Lustgarten (writer of ‘Socialism is Great’) told me how satisfying it was to see young people performing in a professional context. ‘There was no ego, no nonsense’ he told me after the performance. The Connections Festival as a whole, however, certainly shows the enthusiasm of young people, and shows how opportunities like this are essential in encouraging this hard work. Both writers expressed how incredible an opportunity the Festival is, not only for the young people, but also for themselves as writers, neither having written a play exclusively for young people before this. It makes me wish there were already more plays that youth theatre groups could grab and use, and tweak into their own visions.
Socialsim is Great, Photo: Simon Annand
The National Theatre is a far bigger arena than either of these companies has ever experienced, but despite how daunting it may have seemed to perform in such a venue, there was an overwhelming sense of enthusiasm and excitement. Being lucky enough to sit in on the dress rehearsals and vocal warm-up, it was clear that the one common factor between all of the performers was their enjoyment of the experience. The Marine Academy group told me how their closeness as friends brought support as well as fun to the rehearsals, with ‘banter’ being named by the group as one of the most enjoyable things about the Festival (more than evident in their vocal warm-up and their sign language conversation with some members of the public outside the NT’s pop-up see-through rehearsal space sent giggles all round). For some it was the experience of the big city that was just as exciting as the performance. One cast member from Marine Academy Plymouth told me that this was the furthest she’d ever been from home (some three hour train journey away). ‘The tube was less packed than I thought it would be’, another cast member added (they clearly managed to avoid the rush hour – an achievement in itself if you ask me).
Victim, Sidekick, Boyfriend, Me, Photo: Simon Annand

For writers and performers alike, therefore, it seems that the National Theatre’s Connections Festival provides a fantastic opportunity to blow many stereotypes of young people away, and simultaneously breath some new life into the world of theatre. It was refreshing for me to see young people perform with such enthusiasm and professionalism, while never forgetting to enjoy the experience.

Journey to X

Tiana-Sharlotte Parry, Young Journalist, at Day 3 of Connections at the NT

My experience of ‘Journey to X’ by Nancy Harris started in the dress rehearsals. Although the cast are all around 16 and 17 they slip into their younger roles very easily whilst maintaining a professional attitude, unless someone gets the giggles obviously. The honest bond and camaraderie between the teens shows through when they begin rehearsals and they flow through the script despite a few little hiccups in a way that makes me excited to see it all again a few hours later.

Journey to X. Photo: Simon Annand
The play centres on a group of Irish 14 year olds that are desperately trying to get to a talent show audition in London to become big stars, or so it first seems. What unravels is a tale of friendship and pushing the boundaries of youth with a political message on abortion thrown in for good measure.
Despite some opposition to the subject matter in their home town, MorePies Productions made it to the National. All the rehearsals were done and after some pretty hilarious vocal warm ups (read: pretending to be a hoover) it was finally show time for ‘Journey to X’ at the National Theatre.

The simplistic set means that it is the plot and dialogue that make an impact on the audience without any visual distractions. The play manages to be funny despite its subject matter and the cast as a whole pulls off a performance worthy of people twice their age. The dialogue is raw and believable without falling into the traps of being stereotypically adolescent which makes the production feel true to life and impossible not to emotionally invest in.

Journey to X, Photo: Simon Annand
The fact that the subject matter of abortion is mostly just hinted at and subtly talked about throughout the play means that the audience is allowed to feel as if they are watching something personal, I know that sounds a little creepy but it actually makes you feel very involved and emotionally attached to the characters. The audience isn’t spoon fed information and this gives the production a certain realism that I relished.

It is very easy to forget that these actors are young teens and so not as experienced as a lot of actors that have walked the boards of the National in the past. The use of body language is fantastic and overall the cast thrives off the energy of one and other to create an hour long performance that is emotive in so many different ways. This is a play that confronts adult topics with the naivety of youth and strikes exactly the right balance between the two thanks to both great writing and stellar performances.

The Grandfathers

Tiana-Sharlotte Parry, at Day 3 of Connections at the NT

The Grandfathers is a play about the effect of conscription and follows the training of a group of young men giving insight into each characters personal experience of warfare as they train to fight for their country. It was performed by St Brendan’s Sixth Form College and Bristol Old Vic Young Company and now travels for one night only to the National Theatre.

Through talking to the cast during their final rehearsals I had discovered that the process taken to develop this play was not exactly conventional. Director, Jesse Jones was keen for the young actors to understand their characters before learning the script, which meant a lot of improv’ classes and I guess what would be called method acting with activities such as having to write a letter home from the battlefield to family as your character after every rehearsal. Well it may not be conventional, but it definitely works. The two leads of this production Guy Remmers and Lorenzo Niyongabo explained that it made them ‘feel connected’ to their characters which in turn made their acting ‘more fluid and natural’.

The Grandfathers, Photo: Simon Annand
I just so happened to be there when an Australian theatre group that had also been performing ‘The Grandfathers’ in their home town were introduced to this group for the first time and surprisingly despite having different directors and being on the other side of the world their approach was much the same. It was interesting to see the character counterparts from Australia and the UK meet; it was a sight that proved the power the arts can have, what else can unite teens from opposite ends of the globe?
After watching the last rehearsal of ‘The Grandfathers’ in a giant perspex box (which is part of the National Inside Out process) the cast went off to get ready whilst I found my seat.
The show starts with the cast already on stage, completely still and silent. We begin at the end, with an emotional death scene and the story is then traced back to its route, the first day of conscription from there. The audience are introduced to each character in time as they take centre stage and tell their own story. It’s not often that you get a show that has both incredible standalone performances and also impresses as a united piece but this is exactly what ‘The Grandfathers’ did.

The Grandfathers. Photo: Simon Annand
Hilariously honest, the play shows so many different characters in such a short space of time that it would be easy for some of them to get lost, but alas, the writing is just too good. Writer Rory Mullarkey finds a way to make the fear of soldiers both emotive and yet funny. Yes, you may spend most of the time laughing at the characters rather than with them, but so do the rest of the cast, the audience feels a part of what is happening which means each and every little dialogue inflection or head tilt is vital and relished. On top of all of this the live musicians and singers used throughout the play add a sense of warmth to what could otherwise be a play about a group of laddish soldiers preparing for war with the enthusiasm that comes from no experience.

However a play about a group of soldiers going through the motions of conscription turns out to be so much more; it’s funny, confronting and upsetting. The actors treat their roles with a sense of responsibility you may not expect from people their age and I would quite happily watch the production over and over again.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

It's the littlest things...

Andrea-Jane Morris, Young Journalist at Day 2 of Connections at the NT

Thursday 21st June, I was privileged enough to be able to watch two youth companies perform juxtaposing, yet-equally-brilliant pieces. Something you see when actors reherase is their take of a different person to themselves, the contrast between the interactions with each other during a scene as opposed to general conversation was quite fascinating.  

The actors and the chorus of 'Little Foot' acted like the stage was their comfort zone. The piece itself had an interesting concept of the change in individuals of ancient South Africa to young people in modern Johannesburg.  Also, watching over their vocal warm-up reminds you that their voices need to be thoroughly warmed up to protect them before to a performance. I tend to forget these things myself.

Their yawning exercise made you wonder whether they were actually yawning or not, (we'll never know). Nonetheless, their performance scared the audience, amused the audience and most importantly, told part of an important South African history, close to the writer, Craig Higginson.

Members of West Lancs College with Writer, Craig Higginson. Photo: Simon Annand
Equally, I got to speak to the cast of 'The Ritual' and was lucky enough to watch their last-minute rehersals. With the play being translated from Portugese to English, I wondered if anything was lost through this translation, and the cast told me, there wasn't really anything to be changed (phew!) Even so, the play received such a good response.

What I appreciated most from speaking to 'The Ritual' cast and their director, was Denny Smith's (director) comment on the fact that "young people are underestimated", but I think with opportunities such as the National Theatre Connections Festival, they can showcase their real talent at an exciting venue!

One thing I've taken away from this experience is, its the littlest things that make the production, that much better; the directors, the assistant directors, and of course the backstage crew! I've done nothing but grin as I write this because this whole festival is so exciting and the things that a put together are seriously awesome.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Celebration of Youth

Amanpreet Paul, Young Journalist, on Day 2 of Connections at the NT

Arguably, in an age of modernity young people are increasingly accused off apathy. An era of video games, the internet and 3D cinema young people are often considered consumers rather than creators.


Despite this, energy and passion were in abundance at  the National Theatre’s Connections Festival proving the critics of today’s generation wrong. The festival encourages the celebration of youth, talent and their passion for producing and showcasing performing arts.  

Of course, London is a capital that is recognised worldwide for its contribution to the exiting and innovative performing arts scene. The young actors of college theatre companies have been lifted from the comfort of local shows and catapulted on the stage of the National Theatre, as if a dream they all expressed.

Undoubtedly, a theatre company is far more a family than a company of colleagues. The cast of ‘The Ritual’ all admitted to the bubble-like creation of a theatre world, in which such a vast amount of time in close proximities with one another is spent, that personal jokes and feeling completely at home in collective company was bound to follow. It’s a world that was described by one cast member as ‘difficult to shut down’, almost all consuming, but, in an exciting, albeit exhausting, way.

Organised chaos would be the suitable description for the behind-the-scenes atmosphere.  Time was of the essence as, quite literally, last minute tweaks were made to the characterisations and performances. Yet, I was given the impression that the theatre companies were not dictatorial, the director would often ask ‘How do you feel?’, this appeared to me a vital question that encouraged mutual understanding and a more confident performance.

Of course, theatre is not just about the performance, but, what is equally and sometimes more important is the making of the show. Crewmembers have an important role to play and Hayley Wareham at 23 was the mother hen of her assigned theatre group. Duties varied from ensuring she did not lose cast members to the labyrinth (otherwise known as the National Theatre), keeping them watered and fed and neutralising any nervous energy they displayed. Perhaps, not the most glamorous job running around the building getting sweaty she explained, but, fundamental to the theatre process. Interestingly, what she noticed most was the respect young people have for the theatre.

It may have been a showcase of young talent, but, the way in which they dealt with the scripts and the dramatisation was very adult. Many of the themes in the plays are quite sinister. Allowing young people to explore serious themes pays homage to the belief in their ability to understand complexities of humankind and deal with them in relatable ways.

Director, Denny Smith, of The Ritual spoke honestly about the ease at which adults can underestimate young people’s ability to adapt to new and challenging experiences. Expressing that, despite the students of Rotherham College in South Yorkshire being BTEC students that theatre is not about grades, but, telling stories that people want to hear. His face was lit with immense pride in his students, ‘I want this to change their lives as professionals and as a person.’ I think he needn’t worry, it seemed to me as if it already had.
It is refreshing when young people are given a platform in society and the Connections Festival seemed a humbling experience for all: the writers, the directors, the producers and of course the ever-talented actors.

It was a real joy to watch not just the performances, but, journey the rollercoaster-like experience of the production company- just like unwrapping a special gift.

I strongly believe that if you’re passionate enough about something then it is hard not to get it right. The thing with young people is that there is still a degree of fearlessness that promotes hope, self-belief and the capacity to be a dreamer.

Beyond this, the Connections Festival proves that this is something inherent in those that share an appreciation for the arts and a strong assurance that creativity should be celebrated and encouraged: bridging the gap between young and old- or should I say older?  

Oh the dynamism of young people and the theatre!

Dami Olatuyi, Young Journalist, on Day 2 of Connections at the NT

Maybe, it’s time to release the belief that the theatre is a dying form of entertainment that is suited only to the old middle aged white couples of this world, because Connections at the National Theatre is here! 

Connections is a project which encourages teenagers around the country to put on their own productions of written scripts. Fear not older generation, Connections does not seek to remove from you from the theatre, but only to introduce it to the younger generation, and give them a national platform on which to perform. What I saw young people do tonight, and what they have been doing for months is so exiting and dynamic that I was proud to be a young person, and excited again by theatre.

The Ritual, Rotherham College of Arts & Technology. Photo: Simon Annand

I saw two plays tonight, (Little Foot and The Ritual) by two drama groups from West Lancashire and Rotherham, incorporating young people who were between 13-19. I was also fortunate to see some of the rehearsals, interview the actors and directors and see some of the background to the whole production.

Impressive was the standard of the finished plays, but more important was the dynamism and creativity that got them there. Tired and hungry, the cast of The Ritual decide to ‘top and tail’ scenes rather than do a complete runthrough of the play. They set to work immediately, and reveal the opening scene, which is a fast paced, wordless and brief introduction of the characters. Denny Smith, the director, claims that “Acting is not about talent, but about telling stories”, he later reveals some of the techniques he uses to continually tweak their performance such as ‘buzzing’ and spatial arrangement. Focus is all about bringing energy up, down, on and off stage.

But this is a dynamic rehearsal and the actors themselves integrate themselves into the directing process; they ask questions, make their own suggestions, and even complain when asked to do something repeatedly. They’re laughing and having fun, imposing their relaxed style on theatre. Enjoying it, but taking the performance seriously. Next, the actors reveal 9 months of character building and rehearsals. Talking to them, they agree that young people don’t appreciate theatre as much as film, but are all aspiring to become West End actors, so perhaps that’s going to change.

The Connections festival has given birth to such creative energy. A large portable rehearsal space has been constructed on a balcony, while down below, other young people, from an entirely different organisation perform their own production on a colourful stage in the drizzling rain, all cranes, harnesses and loud music.

In the evening, both plays filled the 300 capacity Cottesloe Theatre with a multicultural, multiaged, multigender audience, and held our attention: Little Foot with its story about what might happen if 5 teenagers spent the night in a South African cave, and The Ritual, with its characterisation and striking sound effects.

I really don’t know what it was, but something got me really exited about theatre again. It could have been the fact that the writers of each play were invited to come up on stage and thank the audience for their presence, it could have been the free novelty photobooth in the foyer, or perhaps it was the wandering Romanian musicians with their continuous renditions of ‘Upside Down’ by Paloma Faith. Seriously, there was something exciting going on around the National Theatre today, and I think it was to do with the creative exuberance of youth.

Putting Yourself on the Map

Andrea-Jane Morris, Young Journalist, on Day 2 of Connections at the NT

As a young journalist, myself and a group of others were given an amazing opportunity to work with the National Theatre, via the 'Connections Inside-Out: Young Journalist Project'. Being given high access to rehearsals and interviews with the casts of the evening performances, it was an opportunity to take advantage of!

However, the real privilege the Connections team give, is to national youth theatre companies such as West Lancashire College and Rotherham College and the young playwrights, the chance to have their pieces performed and showcased at the National Theatre (a decision which would be very difficult). A opportunity you would never ignore. There was an international vibe this year, with Samir Yazbek (The Ritual) being a Brazilian writer. 

'Little Foot' was written by Craig Higginson, the story of a group who spend an evening telling stories of the underground South African caves and 'The Ritual', a story of a group of young people who form a secret organisation with a certain set of rules to follow was written by Samir Yazbek, translated by Mark O'Thomas. You saw the sheer talent that oozed from the actors. It was mind-blowing. A definite professional status is in the stars for them. 

Little Foot, West Lancs College. Photo: Simon Annand

Nonetheless, the Connections team give brilliant opportunities to develop as a writer and being able to cover part of the largest, national youth festival in the country? An extremely good place to start, in my opinion. The very core of Connections is to help young people and the fact that after 17 years, they are still as important to the country as theatre itself, shows the lives they change. This experience was truly amazing and being able to immerse myself in the different elements of theatre just made it that much more interesting.

In terms of the two, talented theatre companies, this evening at the National Theatre Connections Festival, officially put them on the youth theatrical map.

Connections at the NT, Day 1

Throughout the festival we're offering young journalists the chance to report on the work taking place on the National Theatre's stages. Davina Odebunmi gives us her round up of the opening night.

So you think you’re a Superhero?, Writter by Paven Virk, Performed by Thomas Tallis School

Whilst watching this play I was curious as to whether an adult or a child wrote this play, which was written by Paven Virk, performed by the energetic children of Thomas Tallis School, my suspicions were confirmed when a young lady walked onto the stage who claimed the title as writer of this play.
Set in the futuristic ‘Planet Zola’, and in the prestigious Sports Academy this a place where headstrong children are left to their own devices, it is here we see the wild and adventurous imagination of the writer her aim to create an unrealistic world, allowing the audience to delve into perfect escapism and enjoy the humorous dialogues of the character’s. The interjections of popular culture music such as Beyonce’s ‘Put a ring on it’ allows the children to show off their dance moves particularly funny when they shake their bottoms to this music or when their bouncing their heads to Kylie Minogue ‘Can’t get you out of my head’. The rapper of the group funnily recites the name of every sport in alphabetical order, depicting a young Eminem gone wrong with his fake ‘bling’ around his neck.  
Photo: Simon Annand
As the young actors get into character I, like the other adults in the audience, are in awe of these children who are as young as 11, their passion and enthusiasm helps to engage the audience bringing each character to life. The best parts of the play include the freezing of the other children as the secret superhero relies on the advanced technology of his watch to give her fake identities so the other children don’t question his motives. The ending brings together the struggle of the superhero in reaching Olympic success and him truly embracing  his superhero identity by encouraging a fellow member of the Sports academy from going from always finishing at 3rd place in races to winning. All in all this play was a dramatic, enthusiastic and witty play.

Generation Next, Written by Meera Syal, Performed by Sindhi Association UK, Essex

Having the privilege of getting to watch the cast of this play rehearse and later interview some them, gave me great insight into the narrative structure of the play, how it works  and it’s cultural and political relevance. First speaking to Ravi Rajani (23) who plays Ricky I learnt that he kind of ‘fell into acting’ and this being his 4th Amateur play, in the play he displays amazing talent and believability. As the audience we grow to be annoyed at his character’s personality being pompous, loud-mouthed, dim-witted with limited intelligence. As he tells the audience that he is preparing for his ‘re-re-re business re-take’ we come to think of him as frivolous, irresponsible and stupid. It is any wonder why the caring Areena married him. Cleverly, writer Meera Syal made this play original by showing how culture has progressed since 1979, 2005 and 2035 and also getting the actors to explicitly show how their same character has evolved or not. Central to the stereotypical fundamentalist Asian culture assumption is that wives have to assume the submissive role in their relationships. 

Photo: Simon Annand

We see the most change in Anita who goes from being unmarried and ashamed in 1979, to being bold and a strong advocate for women’s rights, this does not affect her actress friend Areena, who is excited to recite sexy lines in an advert, whilst she critiques her friend’s choice of shoes referring them to be lesbian. The scenes of Neera and Vip  on opposite ends of the stage is stage brilliantly as they take separate calls we gain a real insight into their character’s separately. We learn that Neera is hysterical, whines a lot and argumentative as she speaks to a company in India hoping to return there soon. Vip appears family –orientated and wants to make his mum proud. As the play draws to a close and the couple Vip and Neera say goodbye and prepare to leave for India we learn that Anita with her feminist ways finds love in Kieran and the story is left with some ambiguity making it more believable as the audience ponder on what the future has in store for these young couples.