Coming Up review at Watford Palace Theatre – ‘too many ideas’

Goldy Notay in Coming up at the Palace Theatre, Watford. Photo: Richard Lakos Goldy Notay in Coming up at the Palace Theatre, Watford. Photo: Richard Lakos
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In Neil D’Souza’s second play, the author also plays the central character – Alan, a British Asian, who while returning to Mumbai on business, finally squeezes in a visit to the aunt and cousin he was so close to as a boy.

His journey opens up an emotional can of worms, not least the discovery that his late father – from whom he was estranged for 15 years – had written a memoir entitled ‘Coming Up’. Throughout the piece, stories from this text are brought to life, as are Alan’s own childhood memories of India.

The way these different tales (touching on themes of religion, class and sexuality) are interwoven by the writer is evidence that the text has plenty of potential, but as yet there are too many narrative threads to make a cohesive whole. It is hard not to feel dissatisfied by so many unanswered questions, not least: why did Alan’s relationship with his father fall apart in the first place?

However, that doesn’t mean that D’Souza’s characters don’t occasionally leap from the page, particularly when played so brilliantly by the writer himself and just four other actors – Ravin J Ganatra, Clara Indrani, Goldy Notay and Mitesh Soni, all taking on at least two roles. With only a small number of props, and the odd subtle change in costume (credit too to lighting designer Prema Mehta) each character is immediately recognisable.

There is also a poetry about the way Watford Palace artistic director Brigid Larmour and movement director Shona Morris allow the different storytelling styles to flow with ease, encompassing feelings of hope, desire, love, loss, regret and despair.

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A play with potential, but too many ideas threaten to overshadow the central themes of family, loss and being lost