Review of the Londonee at the Season of Bangla Drama

I took the opportunity to see Londonee at the Brady Centre as the Season of Bangla Drama drew to a close last Saturday. For what the RichMix holds in polished pretentiousness, the Brady Centre makes up in graft and homeliness. Increasingly, I think the two venues are entangled in my head, which must mean that somone in RichMix is making good decisions.

The play was performed by Kukul and Ghetto Tigers and directed by Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti and was on at the Rich Mix in a not too dissimilar format in May earlier this year. I was told some good things about it from someone I usually trust on these things, but underlyingly I went to see Rez Kabir, of that lungi-clad anti-Morrissey rant down Brick Lane fame. I might also have been curious as to how they played with the transnational identity invoked by the word Londonee.

The story follows a rather deviant angel's intervention in the life of a troubled young man from east London and his sister. The angel Manush is conceived in a strange christo-hindic-pythonesque frame, plagued by the bureaocracy of the Council of Angels, and saved by being performed Rez doing the baul/vagrant thing with it. You would get me turning up to any play with him whirling around in a lungi and punjabi being loud.

See Manush used to be human and was taken ahead of his time, and he was a Bangladeshi Freedom fighter to boot, a commonality with our troubled young man's errant father who never fully recovered from the horrors of war and ran off when his mother died. Our young man, who is also called Rez is musical and like every bengali badboy must have behavioural issues. He looks after his younger sister, a conciencious kabadi player. Cue East London vs Southall contrivances and good music.

The play tells us how far we have come from the mid 90s Goodness Gracious I Bent It Like Beckham era, when Asian Cultural Product all felt like this (not you Nitin Sawnhey xx). Wanting for political symbolism, like Colours of Hope, as well as the otherwordly reach of Bonbibi, I was trapped in a time machine with good acting. This was until I understood that the writer, of more western Indian ancestry, drew from her experience touring desh in the mid 90s with a theatre troupe. there was an interesting section of writing towards the end that lifted it for me, when Manush talks along the lines of "the man without history is nowhere, but the man who knows and has made peace with his history and acts as if it isnt there is a giant".

Check it.

I am not a theatre person, I once met a theatre person. The result was that I would look into it more in my 30s. Watching these three plays in such a community incubator is the start of that iA. I am gutted to have missed the Tagore production in the season, which is meant to have been pretty deep and well performed. It is online so I'll post it here when I get hold of the link

Beyond the cartoon characters, there is a moment in the play when both Rez's confront eachother, the younger human calls the angel out on his liberation war hero identity, using his post liberation scenario as evidence of the former's economy with the truth.

This would have been an interesting tension to complicate with dirty multidirectional truth of violence. What would happen if we stuck a freedom fighter benefit seeker in there, or a razakar fighter who acted with justice and humanity?

Now I would like to take this opportunity to share with you this picture of the wall in the lobby outside.

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