As the audience enters the theatre we are warmly greeted by Ravi Jain– director, actor and storyteller of the show – he encourages us to say hello to his mother (Asha) and help ourselves to a homemade samosa. There are three huge silver platters of samosas on the table in the centre of the stage, these get passed around the audience with people gently waving and beaming when they received their food.
It’s clear from the opening moment that Asha is the star of this show; despite her protests, the stage is her home. She tells us ‘You have not come here to see a play, you have come here to settle a dispute I have with Ravi’. This is true and I felt I was watching an extract of personal storytelling, well scripted despite the protest that this was simply ‘talking about the truth’.
The obvious generosity and love between mother and son is palpable. Under every jibe, tease and sharp witted comment is love and respect. It’s in their eyes, their bodies and their energy emanates throughout the audience, creating a peaceful acceptance to all that is. The two of them on the stage sit around a kitchen table framed by swathes of gold curtains, re-creating the moments and hours, years of arguments they have had, epitomising the highs and lows of family life.
Ravi and Asha explore the very real subject of arranged marriage along-side the roller coaster ride of cultural expectation mixed with a side-helping of generation gap. Personal story telling, truth speaking and cultural education accompanied by photos which document the stories. Delivered with humour there are also moments of hard reality – Asha’s story of her arranged marriage, moving to another country away from her family and how she re-created a community – is softly told and yet the loneliness of her experience is still tangible.
The audience is invited to tell either Ravi or Asha who’s right – the son who wants to live an independent life – or the mother who wants her son to be married and settle down. The strongest message of the play and what I walk away with is, however difficult and challenging your family can be, always sit around your kitchen table and talk it through with love.
A Brimful of Asha runs at Tobacco Factory Theatre until Saturday 20th May
Image by Cylla von Tiedemann, with thanks