Theatre-maker and founder of Why Not Theatre, Ravi Jain, was born in Canada to immigrant Indian parents. While he spent time in Europe studying his craft, back in Toronto, mother Asha was conspiring to uphold tradition and find him a suitable wife. After all, her arranged marriage had worked out well.
Based on some misadventures in matchmaking, mother and son have co-written A Brimful of Asha, punning on the 1990s song by UK band Cornershop.
Upon entering the venue, the audience first meet Ravi and then Asha on the way to sampling one of her samosas. It’s a generous gesture, although the filling is a quite plain, lacking in spice. Sometimes these comparisons just draw themselves…
Anyway, 27 is quite unacceptably old to be still unmarried in Indian culture. Western-thinking Ravi would tell friends of his annoyance at the meddling of “Mummy” in something he saw as purely his business.
The laughter earned by these accounts suggested to the theatre-maker that there was a comedic play in his life’s experiences. But Asha couldn’t allow him to present a biased picture, leading to her involvement in the development and telling of the story.
As someone who claimed to hate theatre (even after embarking on this project) Asha seems a natural as the straight-(wo)man who also does wise-cracks. She noted how the lack of respect for practitioners in the arts posed difficulties for the Indian families of candidate brides. She did well to (mostly) suppress impish smirks when landing burns on her son relating to how his choices affected his perceived desirability.
Ravi did a good job of steering the proceedings along, although he had a tendency to interrupt the flow of the work by unnecessarily explaining Mum’s sceptical interjections. The laughter in the room showed these were well understood.
A Brimful of Asha
Beckett Theatre – The Coopers Malthouse, 113 Sturt Street, Southbank
Performance: Wednesday 9 October 2019 – 7.00pm
Season continues to 13 October 2019
Information and Bookings: www.festival.melbourne
Image: A Brimful of Asha – photo by Cylla von Tiedemann
Review: Jason Whyte