BWW Review: A BRIMFUL OF ASHA, Tobacco Factory Theatres
"Welcome to my home, well it's not actually my home but for tonight it is," says Asha Jain at the top of A Brimful of Asha. Asha and her son Ravi are inviting us in to share an evening with them to tell us a story about Asha's desire for her son to marry a nice Indian girl and settle down. They've even brought samosas.
Ravi and Asha play themselves, and over the course of 85 warm, funny and enjoyable minutes, they recount the story of how Ravi wanted to be an actor (not the doctor or lawyer that would have made Asha happy) and marry for love in his own time. Asha, it turns out, married an Indian man who lived in Toronto, so Ravi is the product of an Indian upbringing in Canada.
What follows is in many ways predictable: Ravi's parents continue to push him to breaking point with various schemes and plans to keep their traditional ideals of marriage alive. Asha herself admits she's no actor, but that gives her an approachable charm that works well. Her finest moment is recounting the story of her own marriage that clearly comes from memory, not the pages of a script.
At its heart, the play is about how tradition meets modernity, particularly for people who have emigrated to a vastly different culture. How can you keep your roots but also embrace your new home? It's a touchingly honest portrait of what happened to Ravi and Asha, sometimes told with hindsight, sometimes played out as it happened.
Visually the piece is a little static, and while there are some nice changes of pace in the sections where Ravi and Asha replay the scenes as they occurred back in 2007 these are far and few between. I yearned for a little more colour about Ravi's trip to India.
It does seem having your mum involved is particularly trendy now (though this show may have been first as it was first performed in 2012). Russell Howard has had a go and there are more than a few comparisons you could make between Romesh Ranganathan's Asian Provocateur on BBC Three and A Brimful of Asha, but that doesn't detract from the fact that an evening spent with Asha and Ravi is a very entertaining one indeed.
Photo Credit: Cylla von Tiedemann