Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti and Pravesh Kumar
Rifco Theatre Co, with Watford Palace and Oldham Coliseum
02 October 2018 to 13 October 2018
Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s latest play, for the energised British Asian company Rifco, rides the coat tails of one of the most famous Hindi films of all time - “Sholay”, a 200-minute comic drama musical revenge tale.
Disabled teen Simon (genuinely disabled first-time actor Bilal Khan) can’t leave his wheelchair no matter how much his funny but wildly unsympathetic grandmother (Seema Brown) would like him to. His cousin Baljit (Gurkiran Kaur) and friends Mark and Keith (Elijah Barker and James Mace) support his dream to move on with his life, as in many ways do his widower father (Omar Ibrahim) and abused friend Donna (Georgia Burnell), because they are trying to do the same, often with dire emotional and community baggage in tow.
The scatter-gun effect of the plot lines, sketchy character development, multiple production styles and fantasy sequences sometimes leave good theatre behind, as if Bhatti and director Pravesh Kumar threw in every childhood memory they could think of and hoped it would made sense. Like its movie inspiration, Dishoom has a little bit of everything, but this isn’t necessarily always a good thing.
We can admire the energy and spirit of the drama but not always the casting nor acting; enjoy the multicoloured set (by Neil Irish) but be a little mystified (if we haven’t seen the movie) of chunks of replayed Hindi dialogue and lines, seemingly from a video recording watched by the gang.
We can wonder what the title means (it’s the onomatopoeic sound-effect of a flying bullet or punch - the Bollywood equivalent of Hollywood’s “kapow” or “zing”), while being slightly perplexed by its use.
And we can like the dancing girls and music while wondering what the heck these have to do with a story about a disabled teenager’s attempts to make his way in the adult world while fending off the verbal and physical assaults of the National Front in late-Seventies Britain.
You either get it - and this has as much to do with being a teen in the Seventies as it has with any cultural background or film-watching habits - or you don’t.
I tried hard to enjoy a lively and mostly entertaining evening for what it is. But I kept coming back to the simple fact that despite its energy, few of the people on stage seemed to have much experience or acting depth.
Certainly not enough to make us think this was anything more than a sort of lightweight, sketch-show version of a subject with greater weight than anyone involved managed to movingly convey.
Reviewer: Paul Genty