Tamasha, in association with Oldham Coliseum and Bush Theatre
Studio Theatre, Oldham University Campus
02 February 2012 to 08 February 2012
Oldham Coliseum are out and about while their Fairbottom Street base undergoes a re-vamp. They’re currently just down the road at the excellent Studio theatre on their home town’s university campus, where they’re collaborating with London-based new writing company Tamasha for this impressive new play by a Middlesbrough taxi driver.
In fact author Ishy Din drives his cab less and less these days as his writing commitments increase and on this evidence he will soon be motoring to further success entirely without it.
Four young Asian men meet in a snooker hall for a game of pool laced with more than a few drinks. They’re meeting to honour the birthday of their dead friend T. Exactly what it was that led to T’s death six years ago, and who was involved and consequently knows exactly what happened, is behind the plot throughout and forms the, somewhat confused, climax.
There is a warning that the piece isn’t suitable for under 16s and anyone of any age easily offended by strong language should take serious note because it is pretty strong. But it isn’t gratuitous, it sounds believable in context, as Din reveals the hopes and burdens of these young British Muslims.
The title of course is a pun, the quartet being seen as part of a ‘snookered’ generation, thwarted and trapped in lives that are far from those they had hoped for. Religion, poverty, racism, drugs, violence – it doesn’t sound pleasant out there and Din’s razor sharp dialogue pins his characters down with precision and humour, lifting the piece way above being a mere wail of despair about a maligned minority.
Only towards the end of the slightly over-long, interval-less, hour-and-three-quarters, does the focus start to blur. By this time it has become a little too long a sit. An interval or 10 minutes chopped from the overall length would be good alternatives to seriously consider.
Sharply directed by Iqbal Khan on a convincing bar room setting, with pool table reflected in a mirrored ceiling that also screens high-speed pool play during scene breaks, it is technically very high quality stuff, though the barman serves some very flat beer that wouldn't pass muster in any hostelry I've ever frequented.
The cast of five – Jaz Deol, Muzz Khan, Asif Khan, Peter Singh and Michael Luxton – play it for real and keep up the tension throughout
Tamasha, who have worked with the Coliseum on previous occasions, is Urdu for commotion or creating a stir, and Snookered certainly does that. It’s touring around the country until April. If you miss it in Oldham the nearest other date is The Dukes in Lancaster Feb 9 – 11.
Reviewer: Alan Hulme