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Theatre Royal Stratford East, London

Together light-hearted and though-provoking, “Pyar Actually” is a rare gem of a play. Its text, written and performed by Sukh Ojla, a writer, actress and stand-up comedian, is fabulously witty, smart and warm-hearted.

Although describing herself as “an emergency smoker” having passed her “shelf life” and “perspiring in her polyester new suit” while “not eating carbs”, Polly seems to have it all: a husband, a son and a daughter, a secure job at the council and a house. Yet, she often thinks of the life she could have had if her teen-age boy-friend, Bali, had not left her in the most painful way. Tracking him down on Facebook and Google, she finally manages to meet him, as he has moved back from Spain to Gravesend. The encounter, however, does go to plan: as a successful businessman with a jet set lifestyle, he has become a bit too “posh” for her liking; he finds her charming as ever, with her Bollywood music obsession and big heart.

“Pyar Actually” is fast-moving and exhilarating with present scenes alternating with Bali dialoguing with his nosey auntie and with flashbacks of Polly’s and Bali’s teen-age years, their first encounter and dreams of travelling the world together. Both actors, in this respect, perform their double sets of characters with perfection: Sukh Ojla’s posture and Punjabi accent render the personality of the ageing auntie and their family community with both fun and tenderness, while Bali’s younger self is cheeky and playful.

Thanks to sound designer Matt Eaton, the play-list is catchy and contemporary, and at times, adds to the absurdity of situations, with for instance the “Goldfinger” sound-track playing at Polly’s and Bali’s secret meeting in Bluewater. The ever-changing decor (designed by Rebecca Brower) is ingenious in that it follows the story-line in a subtle manner, taking us from Bali’s apartment in Gravesend to Margate.

Mixing cultures, social classes and ages, this exceptional new play will make everyone feel fabulous, and as a bonus, empowered them to follow their dreams of blue skies and fiery clouds!

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