Theatre: Moti Roti, Royal Court, London

If the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, then Sadhana (Mamta Kaash), an Indian living in Britain, prepares dishes that are the culinary equivalent of a knife in the belly. The husband who has long oppressed her dies - dispatched, she believes, by her handiwork with a brick of lard and a few bags of Tate & Lyle. "It was my cooking that killed him!" she exclaims to her brash Trinidadian sister Dolly (Sakuntala Ramanee). "Madhur Jaffrey is my guru!"

With the boor gone, Sadhana finds herself confronted with other people's ideas of how she should continue her life. Her son Ricky (Vivek Trived) steps into his father's shoes and starts haranguing her; his friend Ahsan (Raji James) tumbles into an inconsequential affair with her; while Dolly attempts to broaden her horizons with feminist chit-chat and rum. Watched from the heavens by her ancestral mothers, Sadhana starts to turn her life around, to Dolly's delight and Ricky's horror.

If this new, enormously imaginative work from the Moti Roti company has a whiff of soap opera about it, that's no accident. Neither are its suggestions of the more ostentatious excesses of the Indian Bollywood films. Ashish Kotak, who wrote the peppery script, plays mix-and-match with the genres, achieving a stylistic plurality to mirror Sadhana's jamboree-bag of Anglo- Indian influences. It's an unlikely mix: the stilted non sequiturs of daytime TV drama, the richly-textured dream and dance sequences of popular Indian cinema, which so often appear incongruous to the virgin eye, and the earthy comedy of the ancestral mothers, who might have stepped straight out of Chaucer.

With the exception of the commanding, indomitable Kaash, Kotak's finely tuned dialogue is fumbled over by a cast who are all fingers and thumbs. Troubling themes still manage to surface, the most resonant being that of transformation - Sadhana's, from cowering slave to proto-feminist avenger, or Dolly's, which travels in the opposite direction, or that of Ashan, who turns from wily charmer to tyrannical wife-beater. And these are reflected neatly in the play's fantastical carnivalesque interludes which, far from being a cover for scene-shifters, reveal a spiritual depth which the largely inexperienced cast cannot convey.

There are the Hijras, for instance, the cross-dressing eunuchs who signify a state of flux, gliding proudly about the stage, a storm of sequins making them shimmer like a stretch of ocean in the sunlight. The throbbing bhangra which they dance to is used to stirring effect, that wailing, quietly desperate music which always, like the characters here and in Bollywood, seems to dream of something better.

You feel, though, that there is unmined potential in the use of film. It's mostly employed as a scene-setter, and to good effect - a night on the razzle-dazzle is heralded by a scratch animation loop of oncoming taxi-cabs and frantic sperms which plays continuously on a wall behind the actors. It works so well as visual shorthand, it's a pity that nobody was brave enough to spread it a little thicker. There was probably the worry that it would be too much of a good thing. But sometimes more is more. It's a lesson that the rest of this giddy, invigorating marriage of the real and surreal has got off pat.

`MAA', Royal Court Theatre, London SW1 (0171-730 1745), 3.30pm & 7.30pm today only

Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood

'Whether he left is almost immaterial'TV
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May


Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before