theSpaceUK online 2021
Written by Lekha Desai Morrison, Directed by Bethany Sharp Assistant Director India Aujla. Set designed by Constance Villemot, Sound design Keri Chesser and Harry Guest. Lighting Design Andy Straw, Music Consultants Selina Hotwani and Deven Modha.
Stage Management Catherine can der Hoven, Poster Keri Chesser, Media Management Social Wonderland. Production Assistants Mélisande Pibarot, Daisy Suffield, India Aujla.
Now on YouTube.
Who’s living a double life? There’s Patsy Prince’s Meera talking to her dead husband and several gods who tell her ‘leave your son alone’ when it comes to marriage and a suitable girl – which definitely doesn’t include English girls.
And Meera might be faintly relieved to find no English girl has a hope. No girl period. Lee Farrell’s Josh – Rajiv’s Brit best friend – is a good friend of Meera too: charmingly solicitous, gives her flowers, sets up her website, does things she wishes Deven Modha’s Raj would. Josh even gives her her own dating app. He discusses marriage, tells her to marry again. Fine but Josh is pretty married to Raj himself.
And Josh is getting a bit tired of his double life as mother’s straight best friend/her son’s seven-year lover; he’s getting the itch he says over Raj’s eternal havering. ‘Let’s get married’ he explodes to Rajiv. Or get Meera to marry – take the heat off. Raj havers again. One of Meera’s best friends tried to commit suicide when she finds out her daughter’s going out with girls.
Morrison sets up cultural tensions: Raj being gay, his mother’s non-acceptance; her own community’s looming non-acceptance of them both.
Misfits is written by Lekha Desai Morrison, directed by Bethany Sharp with assistant director India Aujla. The set’s designed by Constance Villemot, sound design Keri Chesser and Harry Guest. The strong lighting design’s by Andy Straw. It’s a fine double-purpose set too, a living room, cream walls white sofa in good realist style, tables. Two doors upstage left and right. Downstage stage-right’s the meeting-points – small table and chairs, an outside bar, where everyone hooks up. There’s atmospheric music interludes arranged and written by Selina Hotwani and Deven Modha
The tenacious Meera’s meeting a suitable girl for Rajiv, Selina Hotwani’s Priya with secrets of her own. Meera pretends to be his PA. Having seen her daughter married she cares for Rajiv. ‘You’re both twenty-nine’ Meera admonishes Priya. Seems too close to an interview.
Still when Priya meets Raj she has a proposal. Fake marriage? Raj thinks it over, rejects it, then drops his bombshell to Meera which might make an effective if obvious end of Act One. We’re not there yet!
Meera’s now in freefall, phoning every networked set of parents who might have a daughter. And addressing her business empire. There’s a shock. Her dating site? Finds out she’s more of a misfit than she thinks. But why now? She’s been on it for years, Josh set it up. Josh owes her and she needs to enlist his help. Like he won’t believe Raj has said he’s gay. And what’s in it for Priya? She too has two huge secrets.
Josh though possesses many skills, including sleuth. Even if Meera hasn’t twigged who Raj’s lover is. Sending Josh on a fishing date with Priya (who soon falls for him) brings a climax with everyone in the room assuming something else. There’s a brilliant resolution to two crises, which structurally echo the double climax of Act One. There’s a third though. Meera’s going to need all the help she can muster.
Morrison doesn’t just address familial taboos over sexuality, but those patriarchal fiats over women too. Even older women who think of a possible life after a 21-year widowhood, the way patriarchial assumptions crimp and blight women, and the response of the pink saris in India.
Much of the drama revolves round Turgenev duettings which happily opens out full-throttle in the last two scenes. Morrison takes on three huge themes – almost taboos – in British Indian society – and dovetails them into a comedy.
The amount of material and resolution Morrison introduces at the end makes you want to experience it in a theatre, live, with that thrilled kick-back of recognition a real coup such as Morrison brings. It’s almost too much denouement but it’s what’s necessary and Morrison’s dropped her clues.
There’s indeed much comedy a British and British-Indian audience will find instantly satisfying; recognizable cultural assumptions. Others are less obvious; this is where Morrison’s moral weight and deft comedy scores. She’s especially good at turning serious themes into comedy, tailoring the plot so each proves interdependent.
The cast are consummate inside their roles. Patsy Prince inhabits Meera through all her smothering solicitude, pushy suitable-girl routines and several kinds of heartbreak. Deven Modha’s excellent at conveying an awkward not-quite-happy-in-his-skin boyishness. Poised Lee Farrell ranges from terminal impatience, importunate lover, delicious self-delight, patient fixer friend to subtle noser-out of secrets. Selina Hotwani has less to do but suggests a haunted young woman desperate to maintain a front, slinkily eager with Josh, most of all deploying a roller-coaster of emotion when truths tumble out, scarcely able to believe in kindness.
There’s a few boomy sound issues that disappear with the musical interludes – fine incidental music from cast members Hotwani and Modha. A premiere and festival with virtually no time to bed in is in itself deeply impressive.
If seeing it on YouTube, you’ll realise direction will brisk up a little, pace will tauten with a run. It’s an important play, tackling the deadly serious with laughter that all too easily could lead to stark tragedy.