Review: Coming Up At Watford Palace Theatre Is A Bittersweet Tale

Coming Up at Watford Palace Theatre ★★★☆☆

Lettie Mckie
By Lettie Mckie Last edited 37 months ago
Review: Coming Up At Watford Palace Theatre Is A Bittersweet Tale Coming Up at Watford Palace Theatre 3
mitesh_soni__neil_d-souza__goldy__notay_and_ravin_j-_ganatra_-photography_richard_lakos.jpg
Mitesh Soni, Neil D'Souza, Goldy Notay and Ravin J. Ganatra (Photography Richard Lakos)

India is coming up, fast. Full of optimism, industry and self-made millionaires the future is bright for the sub-continent but there are still huge divides between rich and poor. Neil D'Souza's new play Coming Up at Watford Palace Theatre might not tell us anything we don't already know, but its still playfully evocative of an endlessly fascinating country.

A bittersweet father and son story, Coming Up is set in Mumbai where Alan (played by D'Souza) has returned on business after 30 years in the UK. Stressed and irritable, Alan moves around the city in an air conditioned car grudgingly visiting his relatives in between meetings.

Bridget Larmer's direction uses a combination of devised physical theatre, dialogue and narrated scenes. The play relies on a versatile ensemble cast to portray Alan's story from childhood to present day, while also interweaving his deceased father's colourful memoirs.

The most striking feature of the otherwise minimal set are huge teetering pillars of household items which tower at the back of the stage, shrouded in white fog from a well-used smoke machine. A host of colourful figures emerge out of the mist to conjure up Alan's world.

Using the microcosm of one family to comment on India in general has mixed results. Excellent performances come from Clara Indrani and Mitesh Soni who are a hilarious double act as a vindictive slum couple who make the young Jacob's (Alan's father) life a misery. Along with the rest of the cast the pair effortlessly transition from these old world caricatures to 21st century Indians pertinently showing the huge changes that have occurred in the country in 50 years.

Sadly, although the story has great promise it often feels limp and fails when the language becomes too ethereal. The actors struggle with a slightly verbose and meandering script which doesn't quite hold together in the second half. This can be forgiven however as the plays is also often extremely fun. D'Souza is ingratiatingly vulnerable as an Englishman lost in a world he barely remembers, his privileged behaviour indicative of his inbuilt prejudices. Alan needs to learn to reconnect with the people and places he once counted as home, but will he be able to overcome his anger before it's too late?

Coming Up is at Watford Palace Theatre until 24 October. Tickets £11.50-£20 /concessions £4 off.  

Last Updated 17 October 2015