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Approaching Empty review at Kiln Theatre, London – ‘strongly performed’

Nicholas Prasad, Rina Fantania and Kammy Darweish in Approaching Empty. Photo: Helen Murray
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They’re an unlikely pairing, Raf (Nicholas Khan) and Mansha (Kammy Darweish): one dresses his tall and lithe figure in sharp tailoring paired with leather tasseled loafers, the other is short and stout and wears corduroy trousers and cosy cardigans.

But they’ve been best friends for years, both part of the generation of middle-aged Asian men who came to England in their teens and spent the majority of their lives here. Now they’re employer and employee – Raf owns King’s Cars, the Middlesbrough based minicab firm that is managed by Mansha.

In Ishy Din’s engaging new play, capably directed by Pooja Ghai, both men started out in the manufacturing industry of pre-Thatcher Britain. It’s now 2013: their industry is obsolete, Thatcher is dead, and while Raf has seemingly done well for himself with his business, Mansha’s transition from the factories to the phones serves as a constant reminder of a wasted life. He is determined to do better.

Under the fluorescent strip lighting of designer Rosa Maggiora’s teeny-tiny cab office, the two men strike up a deal that, on the face of it, seems mutually beneficial.

Ishy Din’s writing lays the foundations for a solid set of performances from the six-strong ensemble. There’s a barnstorming turn from Rina Fatania, whose Sameena,a foul-mouthed ex-convict who’s fresh out of prison, is both fierce and fearsome. Her comic delivery is impeccable. It takes great skill as an actor to move from light to dark within a single performance, but Fatania has this in abundance.

Taxi driver-turned-playwright Ishy Din: ‘I wrote on a laptop in the cab in-between jobs’

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Ishy Din’s strongly-performed portrait of post-Thatcher Britain, set in a northern town