Ishy Din’s gripping studio theatre piece Approaching Empty produced by Tamasha, Kiln Theatre and Live Theatre is one of the most naturally played, totally involving works this reviewer has seen this year so far. Approaching Empty is directed with subtlety by Pooja Ghai with a grubby realistic taxi rank set designed by Rosa Maggiora and splendid sound by Arun Ghosh. As the audience settle in Ghosh’s traffic soundtrack gets us eager for the dramatic traffic on the stage.
The emotionally complex characters are superbly drawn and brilliantly acted by Kammy Darweish (Mansha), Rina Fatania (Sameena), Karan Gill (Shazad), Nicholas Khan (Raf), Nicholas Prasad (Sully) and Maanuv Thiara (Tany). Special mention must be given to Lisa Connell’s fight direction work in the second act which had the audience tense and on the edge of their seats.
It is interesting that Tamasha means ‘commotion’ or ‘causing a stir’ because that can be applied precisely to this piece of theatre that evolves so engagingly and slowly at first but has blasts of danger from the taxi firm boss Raf and his attitudes towards business, life and his family. Even as we are drawn towards the end of act one and the positive aspects of a new business deal for three of the cast – a chance to be their own bosses or even kings of the taxi world – we sense unease – we sense all is not right. As we hear the television on in the background we hear/ are informed by/ then contemporary reports of political unrest, perverting the course of justice and financial corruption in the UK, all of which echo in the course of this play.
After the break we discover our instincts entering new territory and our unease is confirmed. As Tamasha proposes this play sparks ‘distinctive social discourse through compelling theatre experiences’. In terms of ‘placing emerging and established artists from culturally diverse backgrounds centre stage’ Approaching Empty is spot on.
What is also interesting is to be situated in a place of privileged retrospect – to have knowledge that is not within the world view of the characters themselves, embroiled as they are in 2013 around Margaret Thatcher’s death and not so far removed from the World Banking Crash of 2008. The financial world is still reeling and tightly guarded finance for business and personal use means that money is unstable and risk can be unwise. But maybe that is where Ishy Din’s drama truly comes into play – the notion that the people in the play are slightly willing to take a gamble… that their lives are so saturated with dis-satisfaction and lack of social fulfilment through missed opportunities that they ignorantly push themselves to the brink and hope for salvation. Din’s sharper than sharp insightful writing helps us to consider the lives of the everyday struggles of the everyday working class person – a situation so far removed from the historical world of upper middle class dramas it is laughable.
Approaching Empty does certainly provide us with some great dark humour but its strengths lie in the universal truths and universal communications we gain from watching Ishy Din’s powerful work amplifying cultural voices in such a totally engaging context. As high quality, finely detailed, plays about friendship and betrayal go Approaching Empty is very highly recommended. Taxi!!!
Approaching Empty runs at Curve Leicester until Sat 30th March.
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