During the month of November every year, I attend out of love and duty, what I feel is one of the finest fringe theatre festivals in the UK. As a staunch supporter of local arts, I have always tried to contribute however I can in ensuring these traditions continue in our urban spaces. This festival is called The Season of Bangla Drama, spearheaded by a good friend of mine and also a fellow theatre lover Kazi Ruksana, whom without, this festival would collapse. She, with the help of the Tower Hamlets Council and all the wonderful festival volunteers and venues, leads this annual celebration from inception to delivery – and it has gone from strength to strength every year.
The festival offers a diverse range of plays with Bengali sensibilities from the UK, Bangladesh and West Bengal. It aims to explore how Bengali culture and heritage can be exported across continents and reinterpreted using a mixture of innovation and tradition to inspire a new generation and develop new audiences. The festival is also a great platform for emerging writers, directors and performers to showcase their talents. . I am asked every year to review the plays, which is both a pleasure and challenge, especially for the really good ones where I’m often lost for word and just want to say ‘incredible’!
It was a Friday night. The end of the week and coming to the end of the season of Bangla Drama and also the month itself. Cold and dark outside and suddenly lights are going up and everyone is preparing to switch off for the Christmas break. This play was just what I needed. An emotional pick me up.
Highly Unlikely is a whimsical foray into different perceptions of relationships and marriage told through the perspectives of four individuals with varying values, experiences and beliefs! One protagonist is a young man about to enter into an arranged marriage, another is a free spirited young woman who rejects the whole notion of matrimony, an older man who has remained single and a woman who is a divorcee. Needless to say, some ideas change with age and this light hearted comedy cuts through the ‘matchmaking and check-listing’ route to marriage and questions the real reasons for wanting to ‘tie the knot‘.
I went with a friend who had started to grow quite cynical about love and marriage. I think it was just what he also needed. The whole piece took place at one table, two weddings (but felt like one throughout) and one set of props – but set at different time periods. I rarely have little to say about a piece when I really like it. And this one was just that. I really liked it.
It was relatable, the characters were delivered with such ease and the actors were tremendous. They owned the stage and our emotions and with a firm grip held this throughout the entire performance. From the playful banter between one couple to the cheeky often feisty, competitive and curios conversation between the other; this piece was a great insight into the initial stages of many relationships in our world today. I felt like a guilty voyeur into an intimate personal moment and growing connection between two people. And this feeling was quite apparent amongst the entire audience who all watched with this half smile on their face. We had all been there. We had all asked the same questions. We had all felt those feelings. And most of all, we connected when we least expected to. In the rare silences between the well thought out dialogue and delivery, the moments of contemplation, and those sighs where the characters questioned themselves, we too were there… in that single emotion. Kudos to the actors for being so natural!
If there was ever a play that was able to connect all ages and backgrounds through the language of companionship, and an analysis of life, love and relationships, then this play would be it.
A brilliant performance and play with an unexpected but great ending.
© 2014 Shroomantics ~ Rahima Begum
The Filim Company
Written and directed by Kayser A Foyz