The New York Times has described the work of American playwright Aditi Brennan Kapil as “Rich in feeling, wide in scope and teeming with poetry” so it is with great consideration that associate director Suba Das and Curve Leicester have chosen this newly penned one act play 'Shiv' to launch their Inside Out Festival. The exciting festival of fresh new drama, comedy, dance, the spoken word and music is taking place between 22nd April and 6th May.
The work that has gone into the production of Shiv is a clear demonstration of Curve's commitment to the arts, especially new work and the nurturing and exposure of it to new audiences. The set design by Kevin Jenkins is realised as a watery dream scape by a lake with a raked mattress central and integral to the action. Shiv's mattress sits aloft a square wooden decking section or landing. The gentle colour palate is a poetic mix of soft colours, the backdrop echoes of the landing by the lake, almost Japanese in the observing. To each side of the raised landing hang equally beautiful facsimiles of blue light shining on water as if grown large and pulled directly from a painting. The whole effect is of calmness and contemplation. Musical composer and sound designer Adam McReady (Poetic Machines Ltd) has created a superbly subtle soundscape that underscores and entirely compliments Aditi Brennan Kapil's play. David Holmes lighting design is a consummate blend of perceptive shades to achieve the constantly shifting moods of the work.
With only a three week rehearsal period Suba Das and his four actors have managed to create a superb realisation of Brennan Kapil's new writing. The story of Shiv (Emily Lloyd- Saini) and her search for meaning in her relationship with her Punjabi poet father Bapu (Andrew Joshi) takes place on and around the mattress – a solid depiction of safety and comfort but also a raft on which she tries to stay stable whilst coming emotionally adrift. Lloyd-Saint's Shiv is one moment a young girl in awe of her father Bapu – the next a more socially aware adult personality who realises her father's drinking problem and his affair. Andrew Joshi's Bapu is viewed as the younger version of himself so even as he plays flying kites with his young daughter and leaves the stage to return minutes later to talk with his adult daughter the poetic nature of the writing gives the illusion credibility and even adds strength to the storytelling. Like much in theatre there is an enjoyment in the theatrical corruption of reality. Both Lloyd-Saini and Joshi work attractively together and especially so in the very funny scene where it becomes evident that Bapu is a huge fan of Star Trek – The Next Generation.
Actor Ian Keir Attard is totally believable and the young American Gerard who lives and works by the lake and starts to fall in love with the enigmatic emotionally adrift Shiv. Their scene when they finally get together yet don't really is wittily realised. Like much of this complex and very human play one second the audience laugh with the characters and then have their hearts broken. In fact throughout this eighty minute play the audience are completely taken into this time shifting world of poetics. Shiv is a work of immense quality and depth and deserves a longer run than that allocated at Leicester Curve.
As this is a play about memory and different perceptions of a flawed creative (father Bapu) writer Aditi Brennan Kapil brings in a fourth character towards the latter part of the story. He is simply called The Professor. Robin Bowerman plays The Professor with an intelligent lightness and his recall of Bapu at a summer writing workshop in the past in which he brought with him a blonde lady 'translator' serves to add further levels of loving yet devastating understanding of the man who was Shiv's father.
Most of us go through life with evolving perceptions of our parents. In simple terms there is the complete trust of childhood where the adults and their actions are seen sometimes through rose tinted glasses. Then those confusing teenage years where we start to form opinions of others and often rebel and finally the adult years where it can take years to come to terms with the emotional self and other selves. The play Shiv takes us through many of these feelings and brings an added depth through its witty observations of what it can be like to live in a multi-cultural society and for the young woman heroine to live in two worlds at once.
Photo images credit Pamela Raith
Review originally published on 24th April for The Public Reviews