With the Arcola Theatre about to be turned into luxury flats, this is one of the last plays at its current Dalston location. A beautiful new building has been secured but it will be hard to beat the charm of this converted factory, where you have to walk through a car wash car park to get to its smallest stage. Unfortunately ‘Gandhi and Coconuts’ is an uneven production which isn’t totally sure what it wants to say.
Asha is a lonely housewife, afraid to leave the house during the day and when her husband returns from his mundane job all he wants to do is relax in front of the television. She soon escapes into the India of her imagination when Gandhi and the Hindu gods Shiva and Kali arrive at her door.
Performed in a tiny studio you quickly get a sense of the claustrophobia Asha feels, and the first scenes effectively portray the tedium of the characters’ lives. Gandhi soon appears, and with the hindsight of death realises that he led a boring and regimented life. His advice to Asha is clear, live life to the full. But the arrival of Kali and Shiva is perhaps a little perplexing. This double act offers great comic touches; Kali is particularly engaging as she bullies Shiva for abandoning her and attempts to teach Asha to use her feminine sexuality. Yet too much time is spent on these scenes and Shiva’s pseudo-philosophy at his departure is incomprehensible.
The final act is far more precise. As Asha’s husband attempts to force her to take anti-depressants their relationship breaks down. Asha’s guests are revealed to be more than harmless fantasy and Gandhi’s advice, sinister temptation. At the heart of ‘Gandhi and Coconuts’ is a couple’s struggle to fit into a foreign world, a world were the sacrifices
have become too heavy. It’s just a shame this important message is occasionally lost in
Gandhi and Coconuts is on at the Arcola Theatre until Dec 18th, tickets from £10.
By Jon Davis