Thursday, 15 March 2012

Theatre review: Snookered

The last show at the Bush to be programmed during the Josie Rourke regime, Snookered is a co-production with Oldham Coliseum and Tamasha, the latter company having discovered playwright Ishy Din at one of their writing workshops. Four old school friends meet every year on the birthday of the fifth, who died of an overdose some years previously. Though well into their twenties, their group dynamic still has something of the playground about it, and while each still has his own issues with the others, they all have plenty of adult concerns in their lives outside as well.

Shaf (Muzz Khan) is the most obviously messed up; a cab driver and married with his fifth child on the way, he's the least financially secure, is prone to anger and has started assuming every white person is a racist. Billy (the preppily handsome Jaz Deol) has moved to London after a family bust-up, and these annual meet-ups are his only visits back North. The awkward Kamy (Asif Khan) was always, and still is the whipping boy, both in the group and at home - having taken over the family business, he's still at the mercy of his retired father's bullying. And Mo (Peter Singh) is doing well at work, but his friends suspect him of having become radicalised.

Din would appear to be a natural playwright, having got right the particular balance of comedy and drama that can really draw you into this kind of story. The picture largely built up through apparently casual conversation, director Iqbal Khan keeps things visually interesting, the talking and drinking broken up with games of pool (but Pooled would have been a rubbish title.) There are elements of the story that are specific to the characters being British Muslims, as their religion seems to have shaped each of their identities in different ways: Shaf has lost his faith but is still appalled at the idea of halal butcher Kamy eating hot dogs when nobody's looking. Meanwhile the latter can't accept his friend's new-found atheism. And of course they all drink - when Mo gives up alcohol it prompts the others' fear that he might have gone "a bit Osama." But there's also enough about the characters and situation that's universal, so there's nothing "niche" about the play, which ends up being a foul-mouthed, entertaining evening. The cast are all very good, clearly defining their characters in all their differences and similarities, and Asif Khan got the audience on-side very quickly with his comic performance as the downtrodden, fussy Kamy, muttering and kissing his pool cue before every shot.

At times I could have done with a bit more tonal variety (there's a few too many shouty scenes in a row) and it takes a while to get used to the accents (I'm assuming Oldham, because of the co-producer? There's no other indication of precisely where we are) but overall this is a believable story with plenty of funny moments to break up the tension, and another strong show at the new Bush - Madani Younis' upcoming first season will have a lot to live up to.

Snookered by Ishy Din is booking until the 24th of March at the Bush Theatre.

Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes straight through.

No comments:

Post a Comment