Starring Shabana Azmi (pictured above),
Paul Bazely, Lolita Chakrabarti, Kulvinder Ghir, Raad Rawi, Nadim
Sawalha. Directed by Indhu Rubasingham, Designer - Ruari Murchison,
Lighting Designer - Mark Jonathan, Music - Nitin Sawhney, Sound
Designer - Neil Alexander, Voice Work - Patsy Rodenburg.
but under cooked" was how Patrick Marmion described it in 'The Evening
Standard'. "Feels like it needs longer in the Tandoor" he finishes
in his review of Tanika Gupta's new play The Waiting Room. I have
to say that this is a little unfair.
around Priya (Shabana Azmi), the story is about her death and subsequent
three-day journey to the spiritual "Waiting Room". The interim period
is meant to be a catharsis of her human life, leaving her unencumbered
with emotionally unresolved issues. First is Priya's relationship
with her son Akash (Paul Bazely) who is a moody, nervy individual,
suffering from teenage-like angst about a childhood accident. This
event, which involved the death of his sister Chand, seems to have
splintered the relationship with his mother and coloured his life.
there is Priya's relationship with her husband Pradip (Nadim Sawalha)
and his best friend Firoz (Raad Rawi). Via these relationships we
get a glimpse of Priya the girl and Priya the newly married immigrant.
Lolita Chakrabarti is sadly miscast as Tara, Priya's daughter, the
jet-setting environmental lawyer. Lolita plays the part brilliantly,
but I feel she has such on-stage presence that she often over shadows
the others' performances. Lolita Chakrabarti is definitely one to
watch in the future.
Waiting Room meanders through various plots and sub-plots culminating
in a tensely written verbal re-enactment of Chand's accident. I
have to admit to a lump in the throat and a tear or two in the eye!
Obviously Tanika Gupta has the skill to enliven the most morbid
of subjects - death - and bring drama into tightly written sections
of the script. Her only failing is the sheer number of plots and
sub-plots. The relationship between Priya and Firoz is not given
enough time to mature; Pradip's reaction is simply unbelievable.
Tara's story and Chand's birth are simply unnecessary. If Ms Gupta
could have reigned in her imagination a little, the play could have
been more powerful. It really is not necessary to emulate a Bollywood
brings me to Kulvinder Ghir, probably best known to us for 'Goodness
Gracious Me', he plays the part of film star Dilip Kumar (yes honestly!).
As a sort of spiritual guide he plays his role beautifully. Sometimes
over dramatic, at other times laconic, if you can suspend disbelief,
he will entertain you well.
Gupta should be applauded for tackling a difficult subject like
death with honesty and good attention to detail. I certainly learnt
something about Bengali cremation rites. It is a pity that 'The
Waiting Room' was on such a short run… certainly worth watching
next time around.
information about 'The Waiting Room'
stage script to The
Waiting Room is available from Faber & Faber (ISBN 0-571-20514-3,
priced £4.50) Also by the same playwright, The
Skeleton published by Faber & Faber (ISBN 0571 19339 0, priced
Gupta is currently the Pearson Theatre Writer in Residence at the
National Theatre (2000). "My first contact with the Studio (the
National Theatre Studio) came in 1995, I had recently written my
first stage play, Voices on the Wind, based on the life of my great
uncle. I was invited to workshop the play at the Studio with a group
of actors and director Indhu Rubasingham. On the strength of that,
I was introduced to a number of theatre companies, among them the
Soho Theatre, became their writer-in-residence and wrote my first
stage commission for them, Skeleton,
which was produced in 1997." Tanika Gupta went on to adapt Gita
River Sutra (ISBN 0749397926), which was also performed in 1997.
Early in 1999, she returned to the Studio on an eight week stint
to write a new play, The
Waiting Room, which was first performed at the Cottesloe on
25th May 2000 as part of the NT as part of the Springboards series.