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Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Birmingham

Elephant
3.0Reviewer's Rating

Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s new play is thought provoking, an open door into the living room of a family who are both simultaneously haunted by their past and obsessed by their future. On the eve of her daughter’s leaving party before she heads to New York, Vira’s sister Deesh comes to visit. It has been years, and it’s clear that there is something unsaid in the room.

When the truth explodes out, the play is at its most interesting. The way that the revelations from the past emerge, setting up a family to tear itself apart, is fascinating. Vira is left with an impossible choice: she must decide which side of her family to go with, and subsequently ruin the other.

This comes towards the end of the performance, via a course of numerous snippets of information fed by all characters. A number of these end up inconsequentially: we know that Bill was bullied, but it feels like there is more there to explain his self-isolating qualities and silence.

Camilla Clarke’s design provides a fantastic metaphor for the family by its use of the carpet. At first sight, it reveals a perfectly ordered home, but as the play goes on it becomes dirtier, less of the well-presented image of a family that is comfortable.

Morrison’s direction struggles in the space though as, particularly early in the play, wandering seems to be the characters main drive for movement, in a house strangely sparse of chairs that uses boxes of Stella Artois to sit upon. There are lovely moments though: Yasmin Wilde’s performance is torn at the end, the matriarch seemingly stumped, and really quite tragic. Farshid Rokey spitting the beer back out that his father has given him let us into the quirks of family life.

I think this play deserves a second half, to push that decision making further for Vira as she has to confront the conflict between the family we are born with, and the family we can choose to stay with.

  • Drama
  • By Gupreet Kaur Bhatti
  • Director: Lucy Morrison
  • Cast includes: Yasmin Wilde, Sukh Okla, Ezra Faroque Khan, Raagni Sharma, Farshid Rokey
  • Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Birmingham
  • Until 3rd March, 2018

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