Four young Asian Muslim men gather in the corner of a snooker hall around a pool table somewhere in or around Oldham, or Burnley perhaps, to mark the anniversary of the death of one of their friends.
There’s motormouth Shaf (Muzz Khan), an “orange giraffe” in his tangerine jacket, who’s a taxi driver with five kids; impressionable Kamy (Asif Khan) clutching a snooker cue that he’s been told belonged to Stephen Hendry, the world champion; and Billy (Jaz Deol) who’s returned home from down South in Forest Gate.
Later, they are joined by the more conventional Mo (Peter Singh), who sports braces and works as an assistant manager in a branch of Comet.
Their banter, rivalries and dreams of self-improvement are discharged over 95 minutes of heavy drinking – pints and shots of whisky and tequila – and a series of pool games, while a virtually silent white bar-tender (Michael Luxton) lurks in the shadows.
Ishy Din’s raucously written play for the touring company Tamasha, in association with the Oldham Coliseum and the Bush, is a bit of an eye-opener for anyone who assumes that Asian Muslims aren’t involved in the boozy lad culture of flamboyantly unpleasant small talk (a girl is referred to as “Syria” because she had “bigger tits” than Jordan) and drug dealing.
How and why their friend “T” came to a sticky end gradually emerges, as does the part Shaf has played in it; but the details of the back story are camouflaged in the barrage of increasingly drunken and expletive-splattered conversation.
There are issues here of girlfriends, family disputes, inverse racism (white people, Shaf asserts with disgust, let dogs lick their faces and eat pig), and dangerous peer pressure. There’s also a bag full of cocaine that is handled like a hot potato when its fate comes to the fore.
Iqbal Khan’s lively production is well run-in after a tour that started earlier this month in Oldham and concludes, after the Bush, in Southampton in April. In many ways it’s a fairly conventional dramatic construct, and not all of the dialogue is consistently sharp.
But that’s probably because the boys are all pretty furious and furry-tongued after the non-stop guzzling. The games at the table are allowed to develop freely (Shaf freakily potted the white ball twice in a few minutes on opening night) but also written in at crucial points: Kamy has to concentrate really hard, for instance, to make sure he doesn’t pot the black when he really shouldn’t miss it in a hundred years.