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Review : A Brimful of Asha at Coopers Malthouse Theatre

By Kerrie Batrouney

Filled with personal experiences, A Brimful of Asha is not a play, it’s a story. It is performed by Ravi Jain and his mother Asha and is an intimate journey through the traumas of the Indian marriage dance! It was a tale of two perspectives, Ravi was telling his story and Asha was interjecting with hers.

From the title and photo of the mother and son, I went along to a Brimful of Asha mostly expecting many of the familiar stereotypical Indian jokes as per the Kumars at No. 42 or in fact any media where a Western raised child has to deal with the marriage expectations of their more traditional parents. Well… it was… and it wasn’t, it was stereotypical but it wasn’t cheesy, it was loving and personal. On entering the theatre we saw a set evocative of a living room set for afternoon tea (set design by Julie Fox). My partner and I discussed the use of the plain white tea set at length… I felt it should have been more Indian, he felt it was symbolic of their life now in Canada, maybe it was just a tea set! We were personally welcomed by Ravi and Asha and offered a delicious samosa, this was unexpected but made us feel comfortable, we really felt we were visiting them in their home. I really liked the way family photos and video were used which reinforced the idea that we were in their home and added a sense of intimacy, (the lighting and projection was designed by Beth Kates).

The show has been playing for a number of years around the world, it is set in 2007 in Toronto and India. At the beginning we are asked to help them solve a dispute, because after all they speak different languages, Hindi and Canadian. It’s a rambling story with several diversions to explain or give background context. It explores the perennial tension between Indian parents and their offspring, the parents’ desire to make a good marriage match. Of course, it included several digs about acting not being a real job like a doctor or lawyer!

Ravi is a skilled storyteller, however from the very first word his mother, Asha grabbed the spotlight and kept it effortlessly throughout the show. Asha was quietly spoken and understatedly kept the audience amused by the quiet certainty of her rightness. Asha is clearly not an actor which she took pains to point out… she is a dedicated housewife and mother. Asha wasn’t confident or trained, but she was emotionally supported by Ravi on stage. On several occasions their eyes met in shared memories and I loved the way this telegraphed their relationship more effectively than words.

The performance was participative and off the cuff, dialogue flowed back and forth, happy bickering with Ravi good naturedly accepting the constant interruptions from his mother. The recitation did indeed feel natural, not scripted but not improvised either, after all they have performed it so many times. Continuously maintaining an upbeat and engaging humour, the performance was at the end a story of hope. The show was created and performed by Ravi and Asha Jain, directed by Ravi Jain, Produced by Kelly Reid and Talliesin McEnaney, and Andre du Toit was the production manager.

Images Supplied

All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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