Behzti, Birmingham Repertory Theatre

Gripping and essential: an offensive yet searing comedy

How 'The Birmingham Post' reviewed the play

How 'The Birmingham Post' reviewed the play

This new play by Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti has apparently already caused huge offence and outrage.

If you didn't know that before you get into the auditorium then there's a written quote given out at the door from senior members of the Sikh community, and a Tannoy announcement to confirm it. After such a build-up, you're expecting quite a shock, and this terrific new play doesn't disappoint.

It is offensive, and furious and bloodthirsty and angry in all the right places. Set mainly in the Gurdwara, the Sikh place of worship, this searing comedy features rape, abuse, murder, violence - while still managing to be hugely funny, touching and tremendously important.

Directed sharply by Janet Steel and brightly designed by Matthew Wright, this play is much more mature and impressive than Kaur Bhatti's earlier Behsharam (Shameless). Braver, edgier and less frantically funny, this is particularly searing when pressing not only the bruise of religious hypocrisy but also the hidden wounds of female aggression, violence and despair. The actors rise effortlessly to the passion of the material and Shelley King gives a blistering performance as elderly incontinent Balbir, confined to a wheelchair and raging against the injustices of her community and her life with podgy daughter Min.

Yasmin Wild is touching as Min, a tender heart who longs to sing and dance and who becomes so trapped by duty and expectation that she is set to internally combust with energy and passion. Madhav Sharma gives a cool, commanding performance as the corrupt patriarch Mr Sandhu, a man who has piously found his own wicked way of coping with the conflict between duty and desire.

The best drama takes risks, kicks out and offends, and the best writers expose hypocrisy and pretence where they find it. Gripping and essential.