A review by Richard J Thornton for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

New End Theatre presents

 

A Genesis of Karma: Three Faces of Evil

 

Written by Gopi Warrier

 

Directed by Alexa Christopher-Daniels

 

New End Theatre

 

17 May – 6 June 2011

 

 

The New End Theatre seems to be building a reputation for itself as the most unpredictable fringe theatre in London, with the most predictable audience. With rarely a viewer under forty, perhaps the tastes of the venue will change with the introduction of new associate director Alexa Christopher-Daniels, the very same who directed this unwieldy play about how karma binds us together in the hope we cast off evil.

After opening like an introductory class of ballroom Tai-chi, the play settles into three seemingly isolated scenes: one the plight of a Jewish woman in Nazi Germany, the next an Indian nun implicitly imprisoned by a sexually corrupt Italian priest and finally an instance of London-based racial, physical and emotional abuse as a white man relentlessly beats a young Hindu woman. The route of the karma train flows so that the perpetrator of the evil in the first scene becomes the victim in the next, and so on, thereby revealing the inescapability of the fate that greets you if you choose an evil path. These scenes are supported by the isolated narrator Jesus, the booming voice of the commanding but suffering Liam Bewley, which gives a confusing but none-the-less effective structure to a play that needed it.

Being only an hour long, it’s difficult to grasp what the play wants to say in regards to karma. The most interesting ideas are drowned in the 'writer's-voice' monologues that book-end the opening and close, but despite Bewley's confident elocution, the messages don't travel. There are moments of power as Lowri James's sharp but fraying Rachel struggles to maintain her dignity in the leers of the lecherous Gustav, skilfully coloured by Edward Coram James. There are slivers of (perhaps unintentional) black humour as the artless priest, an eerily deft Alan Booty, clumsily fails to seduce the angelic Sister Agnes, who's fear and fragility is made real through the physicality of Reena Lalbihari. Edward Coram James once again displays his ability to be brutish in the final scene, but it is Miles Barden's heartfelt but hopeless monologue as the barrister who knows that his court-room success won't help the tortured Praveena walk again that gives the scene its theatrical meat.

The most beautiful thing about this show is how passionately it has been put on. The sumptuously painted set must have taken hours of labour and a keen decorative eye. The sunshine pastel colours swim richly behind the half wood, half scaffold Tree - a centre piece of an elaborateness that never quite justifies itself. The music is another enigma, from Nirvana to George Baker’s ‘Little Green Bag’; one feels like there’s an explanation to these choices hidden between the seams of the play. Whether it is the imminent mortality of the songwriter of one and the film that made the other famous, there’s an intention here which unfortunately, escapes the stretched audience, because the play was one which called for intention.

It’s disappointing when the most enjoyable thing about a play is the facts you learn from it. But in this case, the fact that Indian nuns were ‘sold’ as housekeeper slaves to European churchmen was the most fascinating element of the production. If you’re new to the concept of karma, this show may enlighten you, but if you’re looking for a creative exploration of this intriguing segment of Hindu thought, it might be better to ask a Hare Krishna.

 

 

Box Office: 0870 033 2733
www.offwestendtheatres.co.uk/ticketsales2.html
New End Theatre
27 New End
Hampstead
London
NW3 1JD
Tuesday - Saturday @ 7.00pm, Sunday @ 3pm
Tickets: £14/12

 

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