Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: CHASING HARES, Young Vic

Ayesha Dharker and Irfan Shamji star in this tale of theatre and activism

Review: CHASING HARES, Young Vic

Review: CHASING HARES, Young Vic "I'm not political. Not at all." Prab and his wife Kajol are struggling to make ends meet in early 21st century Kolkata. Since the local factory closed indefinitely, they've had to take on any jobs going to be able to support themselves and their baby daughter, Amba.

After treating themselves to a night at the theatre, they find themselves backstage with the performers (Davesh and Chellam) - one of whom just so happens to be the son of the factory owner. Initially hoping to get back in the family's good books if the factory ever does reopen, Prab inadvertently finds himself with a more stimulating task.

A few weeks ago, James Graham's TV series set in a former mining community, Sherwood, found itself on air as the first wave of train strikes hit the UK - and, in another serendipitous turn, Chasing Hares will be running as RMT and TSSA union members strike again over proposed changes to working conditions. Both of these pieces of entertainment allow viewers to empathise with the workers and understand why strike action is necessary; Sonali Bhattacharyya's play potentially opens this idea up to wider audiences, with its Indian setting and use of a different industry. It certainly pulls no punches in its advocation for workers' rights.

It also demonstrates the power of art in communicating with and inciting the masses. We see some scenes from Prab's play, which he claims to be based on long-lost legends - but in reality it's an allegory for the working class struggle against landowners and corporate chiefs. Donato Wharton's sound design works particularly well in these scenes, creating the feeling that you're part of a mutinous crowd (and even encouraging some patrons to join in!).

There are various points in the play that do actively seek a response from the audience, giving the play some added dynamism; it feels like a living, breathing entity, rather than something more staid and earnest. Akhila Krishnan's video designs, projected onto the relatively plain backdrop of Moi Tran's set, bring the play to life in a different way - both when Prab is telling Amba stories to try and help her to sleep, and also to depict his inner conflict when Davesh treats him as a stooge when the factory reopens.

Scott Karim is truly devilish as Davesh, his dark humour steadily developing into outright villainy as he is corrupted by power; Ayesha Dharker imbues fellow performer Chellam with optimism and playfulness, unafraid to stand up for what is right. Saroja-Lily Ratnavel combines Prab and Kajol's best traits into her portrayal of a grown-up Amba, cautious about endangering her young family but keen to try and change things for the better.

In Zainab Hasan's Kajol, we have a no-nonsense working woman, whose number one priority is security for her family - this, however, strains her relationship with Prab as the couple negotiate the sudden change in their fortunes, orchestrated by Davesh. The awkwardness that defines Irfan Shamji's Prab gradually fades as he becomes more active in the arts, and witnesses more atrocities at the factory; he is also joyful to watch as he regales Amba with stories, revelling in his chance to shape a young mind.

Chasing Hares focuses on some incredibly serious topics, but in the hands of director Milli Bhatia and the company of five it doesn't end up as heavy as the synopsis might lead you to expect. The performances are heartfelt and memorable, and the play is as entertaining as it is meaningful. An important piece to watch.

Chasing Hares is at the Young Vic until 13 August

Photo Credit: Isha Shah/Akhila Krishnan



Review: THE BARBER OF SEVILLE, Royal Opera House Photo
Whether you see this because of the scintillating score or because a night at the opera is now cheaper than heating your home, The Barber Of Seville is sure to warm the cockles of your heart.

Photos: See Luke Thompson & More in Rehearsals for A LITTLE LIFE Photo
Go inside rehearsals for A Little Life, which will be playing at the Richmond and Harold Pinter Theatres.

Photos: Go Inside Rehearsals for THE BEACH HOUSE, Coming To Park Theatre Photo
Get a first look at The Beach House, which will premiere at Park Theatre having been shortlisted for Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize.

Review Roundup: TITUS ANDRONICUS at Shakespeares Globe Photo
Read the reviews for Titus Andronicus at Shakespeare's Globe.


From This Author - Debbie Gilpin


Review: SPECTRE IN CONCERT, Royal Albert HallReview: SPECTRE IN CONCERT, Royal Albert Hall
November 21, 2022

“The dead are alive.” Even the film’s title is redolent of a haunting presence - although hardened Bond fans will know the true significance of this word.

Review: STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI IN CONCERT, Royal Albert HallReview: STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI IN CONCERT, Royal Albert Hall
September 25, 2022

For music lovers, it’s the anniversary album-in-full gigs. For bookworms, it’s the sneaky extra chapter in the paperback edition. And for cinephiles, it’s the film in concert series.

Review: THE P WORD, Bush TheatreReview: THE P WORD, Bush Theatre
September 15, 2022

This two-man show explores what it’s like for a gay Muslim, who’s also dealing with the expectations of his Pakistani family and the wider community; it also investigates the continued threat of the UK’s ‘hostile environment’ – a deadly game of chance for many at-risk individuals.

Review: HORIZONS - A 21ST CENTURY SPACE ODYSSEY, O2 ArenaReview: HORIZONS - A 21ST CENTURY SPACE ODYSSEY, O2 Arena
September 1, 2022

A few years ago, the concept of a scientist selling out arenas across the world simply wouldn’t compute, but the Professor Brian Cox Effect continues to work its magic. He and Robin Ince are back with a brand new tour that seeks to answer the following question: “What does it mean to live a small, finite life in an infinite, eternal Universe?” Over the course of a couple of hours, the audience is taken on a whistlestop tour of cutting-edge physics, exploring the observable universe and attempting to make sense of black holes with the assistance of a stunning array of images.

Review: PROM 53: EARTH PROM, Royal Albert HallReview: PROM 53: EARTH PROM, Royal Albert Hall
August 28, 2022

The BBC’s very first Earth Prom celebrates all aspects of the BBC Studios Natural History Unit, combining beautiful music with stunning videos to great effect in a packed Royal Albert Hall.