Friday, 8 April 2011

East is not just East

What was sold as an alternative to the hit 90’s film East is East turned out to be a confusing muddle which left the audience less than satisfied.

East is not just East was created by Jez Simons, artistic director of Hathi Productions, and last night saw the show open at Curve, Leicester.

Speaking to Simons beforehand he described it as a ‘musical comedy extravaganza’ and promised that a Hathi show is no ordinary theatre experience. The latter was certainly true.

The concept behind the show was to depict the epic journey of one Hindu’s life across three continents.

In the film version, the Hindu community were portrayed in a somewhat negative light and so Simons set-out to tackle this with his own take on events from his research and own knowledge of the Leicester Hindu-Asian community.

The storyline for the show didn’t have a concrete thread to tie all the scenes together which made the show feel unfinished. This wasn’t helped by the lack of passion and emotion in some of the acting by the 15-strong cast.

Actor Vinay Trivedi, who played Joshi as an old man, and his son played by Chirag Patel, were the only good thing about the whole night. This duet worked well together and the scenes with the two of them were the most enjoyable because their on-set chemistry worked.

Anand Joshi, who played Joshi as a young man, was comical at times but because the story lacked a focus his actions were often unnoticed. The Indian Forrest Gump character did have some very amusing facial expressions.

The bi-lingual production sees the cast mix different languages together and at times the audience members who didn’t speak Gujarati were left feeling like they’d missed out on a joke as the rest of the audience laughed.

Music from the 70s, 80s and 90s was used to break up the scenes between the different continents and ordinarily this would have worked but the cast lacked direction and it seems practice.

Although the choreography was good there were several cast members who didn’t know the routine. The show used Curve’s studio space to perform but didn’t crowd the set with too many props. A drop down mesh screen was used to represent the memories and stories being told by Joshi at the forefront of the stage. Act one was quite light-hearted but ended on a very poignant note.

The audience were left feeling a twinge of sadness for Joshi and his mental state because they felt connected to him after listening to his stories so far.

But act two tried too hard to be a serious hard-hitting story about dementia. The sudden change in genre and the lack of tangible storylines left the audience perplexed about what was happening on stage.

The show ended with a solo performance by one of the actors who sang a very slow song. If the story had been polished then this finale might have worked but it didn’t have meaning in the end.

It’s the first show I’ve been to where the audiences’ applause ended quickly and the actors didn’t even come out to bow.

Let’s hope Hathi’s third production, Taj, steps up a mark this autumn!

Runs until April 9.
Originally reviewed for The Public Reviews

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