There’s a delicious sense of mischief running through Bolton-born multi-disciplinary artist Hetain Patel’s latest work, Ten, showing as part of the British Council’s 2011 Edinburgh Showcase. He starts by coming on as if to make a pre-show announcement. Your heart sinks, as it goes on and on. Slowly, you realise you’ve been had and this is actually the show. It recurs gloriously in the moment when he tries to persuade us that the turban was originally created by people wearing shirts on their heads and in fact it should be called a turbot (= turban + shirt). This is a puckish sense of fun.
Patel is using the exhilarating and endlessly complex ten-beat rhythm that forms the basis of Indian drumming to make incisive points about cultural identity in a multi-cultural world. His ‘sidemen’, Mark Evans (Scottish) and Dave Stickman Higgins (Afro-Caribbean and Chinese at the barest minimum), engagingly help him to dramatise his potentially incendiary point that cultural identity is as much something we choose to adopt as it is an innate or inherited aspect of ourselves.
Disappointingly, however, the show loses its way. It’s oddly billed as a dance piece, although it plainly isn’t one. No matter. It is what it is, which is increasingly messy. The red Kanku powder, used in Hinduism to make the red forehead dots denoting caste, starts life neatly on a dish centre-stage. By the end, it’s all over the place and the metaphor is apt. Which is a shame, as there is much here to entertain and provoke.