This one woman show is a fine example of what Alan Bennett might have written in his series of Talking Heads monologues had he been born in the body of a single twenty-something Punjabi woman.
Since he wasn't born like that the writing of this piece fell into the very capable hands of Anjali Mya Chadha, who also performs it.
It centres around the story of a young single woman, dateless, at a friend's wedding. During the course of the pre-service waiting around, the service itself and the reception we are treated to her back-story (essentially there's only one man she fancies, but he's never really noticed her and all other men she's met have been a bit rubbish).
This weaves in and around the goings-on of the day and with many observations of the differences and similarities between the 'English church wedding' she's at today with the Punjabi weddings she's always attended before. It's in these observations that the funniest moments come. Delineations of certain types common to all weddings: the ‘SS Uncles' who unasked take it upon themselves to organise things; the fathers who think they can dance; the mothers who get more than a shade tipsy – essentially an embarrassment of embarrassing relatives abounds in all families and at all weddings, seems to be the message.
The great thing about Chadha's writing is that what could easily have fallen into the camp of some Arts Council promoted cross-cultural educative liaison project never for one moment feels like that. There's no lecturing, no heavy-handedness – it's quite clear that the only reason she brings things up are because they're a) relevant to her story or b) lovely Shandy-esque comic digressions. Nor does her writing, in what is essentially, without giving too much away, a rom-com of a dramatic monologue mire itself in the schmaltz that could have cloyed. She deftly and comfortably treads a fine line, without ever making it seem hard. There are moments in the performance however, this evening, when one got the impression that the quality of the writing was outstripping the performer.
Chadha speaks in the programme notes of being inspired by storytellers like Billy Connolly, and of how he can keep an audience spellbound with just plain words.The difference between what he does and this show tonight, is that his stories sound, coming form his mouth, as if they are being told for the first time, as if they're as surprising to him as they are to you, as if he were making it up on the spot – and it's that appearance of spontaneity that really makes a storyteller like Connolly so remarkable. Chadha, on the other, sometimes seemed like she had a script.
Which isn't to take anything away from her, because she has charm and charisma, shifted into different characters smoothly, evoked a variety of convincing accents and seemed to fit the character exactly. She is very funny, and has produced a fine, engaging and happy show. Like Bennett's Talking heads, you could imagine revisiting this on the page and still laughing as you do so.
A F Harrold.
Click to go back to reviews.