Bristol New Vic
is a play in two halves, though they blend gradually together without the enforced separation of an interval. The first half, which firmly lays the foundations for later, is a garage sink drama, revolving around the petty crimes and lives of a multiracial trio of young men - a scene from The Bill scripted by Edward Bond. The second half, with its consideration of grief, loss and the return of a deceased spouse, combines a Nineties Blithe Spirit with an urban Wuthering Heights.
Madhav Sharma as Mr Jutla delivers a sweeping blast of whisky-soaked emotion and bombast, and the play moves rapidly from the snappy street dialogue of the first half to rolling soliloquy and a supernatural fantasy.
Inside this curate's egg are several good plays trying to hatch out. The writer, Parv Bancil, has the ability to write witty, gritty material about multi-ethnic working class youth culture. The inventiveness and depth of his exploration of coping with loss suggests scope for sensitive, powerful drama. But the seam-welding of the two produces a whole that is less than its constituent parts. The rich material on the nature of male friendship and the rules of the criminal demi-monde in the first portion is delivered too sparsely to constitute a worthwhile thread of its own, yet is too excessive to act simply as the medium for setting up the plot mechanics and paranormal metaphysics for the second half. One also has to wonder whether the inexplicable rapid emotional gear-changes which litter the script, with characters running through calm to anger to pleading to anger in the space of four lines, could not have been ironed out in rehearsal. This is, after all, one of the advantages of a world premiere: the playwright is on hand to polish the bits that don't work. It is hard to say whether the fault lies with writer, director or actors, but a few burrs definitely need smoothing down.
Bancil is an Anglo-Asian writer who, with , has slipped the leash of "ethnic writing" to produce a play that more closely reflects the experience of second and third generations of Asian Britons. The piece places a varied ethnic cast in a situation where ethnicity is disregarded; a colour-blind theatre where race is the background rather than the whole picture, treating ethnic minorities as fully-rounded characters rather than ciphers struggling against either the culture of their domicile or that of their roots. As such, it represents an exciting move towards a new, unifying theatre for a melting-pot Britain. Bancil may contribute some great work to this new theatre, though only hints at his potential.
4 to 23 Nov, Battersea Arts Centre London SW11 (0171-223 2223); on tour to Colchester's Mercury Theatre 27 to 29 Nov (01206 573 948); Newcastle- upon-Tyne's Live Theatre, 2-4 Dec (0191 232 1232).Reuse content