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.
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".