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FringeReview UK 2016

Low Down

Rani Moorthy’s story-telling in five characters reaches Gerry’s Studio, Theatre Royal Stratford East, directed by Kimbeley Sykes. Scenographer Ana Ines Jabares-Pita works music from Renu Amora, Santhors P & SujeeethGB. Sahanz Gulzar furnishes video. Pablo Fernandez Baz provides lighting.


Rani Moorthy’s story-telling in five characters reaches Gerry’s Studio, Theatre Royal Stratford East, directed by Kimbeley Sykes. It’s a seamless conception, thanks to almost invisible teamwork from Rasa Productions Ltd with Scenographer Ana Ines Jabares-Pita, discreet music from Renu Amora, Santhors P & SujeeethGB.


In two two scenarios Sahanz Gulzar riffles images of catwalk-inflected saris for one ironic take; the other the shelling of Tamils and harrowing reports from UN peacekeepers. Pablo Fernandez Baz provides lighting that’s keenly felt at two points and junctures.


Moorthy’s narratives are wittily conceived and drawn in an arc, almost like a Bartok string quartet where the scherzo or jokes are placed second and fourth. A major opening of a woman musing on her past, mainly in the UK, where audience members are draped in saris, and no-one is exempt. Much contrast is made of how Indian people from thousands of miles’ separation and religion and language as well a circumstances are lumped together. The pressures against saris in the UK and its western commodification are brought out with light ironies, none the less shot through with politics for all the badinage.


It’s followed by a transgender rapper with wicked off-rhymes, who again experiences objectification (‘have I a long brown…’) when his/her girlfriend wishes to sexualise him/her in a stereotypical manner. It’s a virtuoso display where Moorthy enacts a teenage rebelling with her sexuality against a sexualised, normative process even in the LGBTQ community. Next a low-caste weaver of saris already fatally ill (this the least developed) take us to the nub of tradition, and it’s realized in what I take to be Gujarat; so the English is projected on a screen.


We then experience more scherzo. We’re treated to the witty super-dry ironies of a Malaysian Hindu academic only given the job of Saris in Bollywood as no-one else for once can usurp her rightful credentials. There’s delicious use of a Caucasian model dummy and a silken cascade or saris pulled from looms and elsewhere. Finally the harrowing, visceral birthing of twins the mother using her marriage sari to swaddle them in in a Tamil-eviscerated war zone, an apotheosis and cue footage.


We return to the UK for the first speaker, with her interactions with the audience who’ve already been subjected to such charm as ‘you have Daily Mail eyes’ and the protagonist’s final realisation of her own affirmative beauty whilst posing for her sons’ photography, modelling and selling her saris via ebay to ‘Hotlips 12 from Scunthorpe’.


This is consummate storytelling, and Moorthy’s narrative variables attest to pitch and speed, a charactering that gifts all it can to the individual and in some cases real tales. There’s much here we cannot forget.


Moorthy’s service lies not just in storytelling or her compellingly witty and memorable language. It’s spelt in the variety of truths whose pressure refracts through them, and a spectrum of sub continental experience. This moveable feast ought to enjoy more venues and it’s meant in the best sense when declaring this is an educative work, and should be seen in schools too, perhaps even more widely as a film.