The TheatreguideLondon Review
The House of Bilquis Bibi
is a theatre company dedicated to producing plays by, for and about the
British Asian community. Sudha Bhuchar's new drama is an adaptation of
Federico Garcia Lorca's House Of Bernarda Alba, about a Spanish matron
who keeps a very tight rein on her adult daughters to protect their
virginities and reputations, only to have the hothouse atmosphere make
them even more man-crazy, with tragic results.
Bhuchar has moved
the action to modern Pakistan, where (as in Lorca) mother has found a
potential husband for her eldest, but he is also carrying on a secret
flirtation with the youngest, while the girls in between get their
vicarious thrills from the double melodrama.
To Western eyes the
biggest revelation of the play is that the very contemporary young
women are all connected to Facebook and Skype and read the latest
Western fashion magazines, but still accept the culture of restrictions
and arranged marriages, so that the youngest's rebellion is still
shocking, even to her sisters.
enough to carry even a short (two hours, including long interval)
evening is another question, especially since the Westerner is likely
to feel left out of some of what's going on.
The characters speak English with frequent extended lapses into Punjabi and Urdu, so some in the audience receive information and get jokes withheld from the rest of us. Adding to that communication gap, a couple of the actresses affect accents so thick that their English is not always appreciably more understandable than their Punjabi, and director Kristine Landon-Smith compounds matters by repeatedly having everybody talk at once.
last problem may be a result of under-rehearsal and jumping cues, since
there's a corresponding pattern throughout of missed cues and awkward
silences as everyone onstage tries to remember whose turn it is to
Ila Arun plays the
mother with the steel of unhesitating self-righteousness, and Rina
Fatania has several strong scenes as an all-seeing servant. Ghizala
Avan as the eldest daughter and Youkti Patel as the youngest work hard
to stand out from the crowd.
Return to TheatreguideLondon home page.
Review - House of Bilquis Bibi - Hampstead 2010