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The Game of Love and Chai review at Tara Theatre, London – ‘vibrant and witty’

Scene from The Game of Love and Chai at Tara Theatre, London. Photo: Simon Annand Scene from The Game of Love and Chai at Tara Theatre, London. Photo: Simon Annand
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With The Game of Love and Chai, Nigel Planer successfully dovetails a classical Marivaux farce with Bollywood song and dance to create a surprisingly successful hybrid.

Stock characters and arranged marriages feature heavily in both genres and Planer’s own impish sense of humour helps lift the comedy boldly into the 21st century.

The plot is textbook farce, with wealthy widow Kamala determined that her daughter Rani should marry businessman Raj. Rani, however, balks at the convention of marriage and swaps places with her poor cousin Sita when Raj is due to visit. Little does she know that Raj has done exactly the same thing and swapped places with his minicab driver.

Naturally, chaos ensues but Jatinder Verma’s direction ensures that no matter how frenetic the action gets, there is no loss of clarity. The heightened performance style, with asides offered knowingly at regular intervals, works well and on more than one occasion the whole thing dissolves deliciously into Bollywood song.

Despite the broad comic tone of the show, Sharon Singh still manages to give the headstrong Rani depth and it’s interesting to watch her heart melt in a most unconventional romance with Adam Samuel-Bal’s emotionally challenged Raj.

There are strong performances all round but there is something beautifully timeless about Goldy Notay’s Kamala-ji, wafting around in a multicoloured kaftan, brandishing a glass of prosecco and revelling in the inevitable folly of youth.  Fresh, colourful and effortlessly entertaining, Planer’s play breathes fresh life into an old form.

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Nigel Planer's vibrant fusion of theatrical styles is delivered with wit and assurance