Pravesh Kumar has not strayed far from the template of The Deranged Marriage; a funny and touching look at contemporary British-Asian experience.
This production centres on a similarly semi-dysfunctional family, headed by a widow caught between two value systems and struggling to hold her family together, while trying to save face before the community. At the heart of the conflict, again, is marriage; this time between Simmy, a ‘village virgin’ from India with little English, and errant son Raj, a local petty criminal who has incurred the wrath of the ‘Aunty’ Neighbourhood Watch/mafia.
Raj having run away after the wedding leaves room for older brother Harry, a thoroughly Westernised, British-born Asian, who has turned his back on his heritage, to gradually fall for the sweet girl from a culture completely alien to him. Their union becomes a symbol of Kumar’s wish to celebrate the best from both worlds, like baked beans masala. It’s all quite light and fluffy but issues such as teenage crime and Alzheimer’s round out the family picture.
There’s a lot in the play that struck a chord on the night with a largely Asian audience but enough to engage regardless of race. When Punjabi is spoken with English surtitles, it does not affect the enjoyment. Gary McCann’s design is terrific, too. But at two and a half hours, the play is far too long and doesn’t always hold together all that well. We know what the ending will be and it’s a relief when it finally arrives. Vineeta Rishi is convincing as a considerate but feisty girl coming to terms with her new family and country. Rik Makarem is a little wooden but draws plenty sounds of approval for his looks. Harvey Virdi is a steadfast mother, Gurbaksh, while the rest of the cast support ably. This will probably go down well with audiences across the country but better if it was shorter.