Theatre: A Perfect Ganesh, West Yorkshire Playhouse Jude Kelly's production helps the audience to stomach Terrence McNally's sugar-sweet play of two women searching for their souls. By Jeffrey Wainwright

It is easy to fancy Katharine and Margaret taking the train from Connecticut, lunching at Jackie Mason's and taking in a Broadway matinee that reminds them of the books they read in college - a play such as this one, in which they appear, Terrence McNally's A Perfect Ganesh. They would not, however, be flattered. The satire they could take, but the play soft- soaps and comforts its audience to the point of insult.

We meet Katharine (Eleanor Bron) and Margaret (Prunella Scales) as they check in for their Indian vacation. McNally's undoubted craft characterises the two within seconds: Margaret pursed and suspicious, aiming to see India "from a comfortable seat somewhat at a distance"; Katharine disorganised and gushing with wonder - "O for a muse of fire!"

McNally seeks what Margaret would call "resonance" by making a Chorus out of the Hindu god Ganesh, a god of appetite and trickery with an elephant's head and a huge stomach, played with great resource by Paul Bhattacharjee. Ganesh explains to us that he is everywhere, "in your cancer", "in the ant on the way to your potato salad", and in nicer places, too. He is happy, cheerful, the god of acceptance.

Ganesh is evidently meant to represent and honour India and so swivel the play out of a western perspective. That he is ubiquitous is, of course, mightily convenient, for McNally can have the benefit of his novelty and make him sound like a cabaret MC. An ingenious device, Ganesh nevertheless serves to validate an action in which India is really only projected in terms of Margaret and Katharine's - read "our" - problems.

Both have come to India for their souls. At first the play raises a sceptical eyebrow at this, but as it follows the familiar pattern of unveiling the heartache beneath the Burberrys - both have lost sons, both harbour guilts and repressions, both have a future portion of pain awaiting - the quest is accomplished. The climax comes as Margaret confronts the leper whose reaching hand she thinks says "love me", and tries to fulfil a childhood dream in which she would kiss a leper's face. She has to realise she cannot, and gives him 50 rupees instead. Ganesh, whose mantra is "allow, accept, be", tells us, "she worried about her soul; he had the best meal of his life". Such "realism" is, of course, just what we want to hear, and to be reassured that we have our miseries, too. Thus are Margaret and Katharine healed and can love. "Come on!" as they say in the loge.

Remarkably, however, Jude Kelly's production manages to slip this sugar down without our noticing too much. Prunella Scales and Eleanor Bron play with wit, tact and enough understatement to keep our toes straight. The design by Robin Don, with excellent lighting by Jon Linstrum and sound by Mic Pool, is wonderfully atmospheric with a beautiful economy of means. Nevertheless, like Katharine's "perfect Ganesh" collectable, this is soapstone not amethyst.

To 7 Dec. Booking: 0113-244 2111

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum