Set in the 1980s, in a modest house in a London suburb, Mr Singh (Kaleem Janjua) decides he and his wife (Siddiqua Akhtar) must take up ballroom dancing in order to meet more English people. The couple's son, Tej (Imran Ali), disapproves of this brazen activity, claiming their living room practise sessions disturb his medical studies. Daughter Cassie (Pooja Ghai) also scorns her parents' modern attitude and yearns to find a husband and move away to India. But Mr Singh's attempts to have his wife integrate with non-Asians backfires when she enters them for a local dance competition. Faced with the prospect of public humiliation and losing his respectability by dancing in public, he opts to fake illness.
Aside from provoking genuine belly laughs, the real beauty of Singh Tangos is its delicious sense of irony. At one point, Cassie berates her parents for failing to berate her for staying out late and dressing in Western clothing. Tej's enthusiasm to become a doctor - and his parents' total disregard for his studies - is also a marvellous touch. Whether black, white, brown or yellow, the Singhs' tempestuous family life cannot fail to resonate.
As Mrs Singh, Akhtar is both confident and engaging, injecting real feeling, energy and grace into her part. Although overshadowed by Akhtar's huge stage presence, Janjua is also utterly convincing as the proud and plumy Mr Singh. As quarrelling brother and sister, Ali and Ghai spark superbly off each other, swearing and taunting like troopers. It's just a shame Ali's angry outbursts are often too garbled to make out, and his accent keeps sliding from Cockney into Brummie.
Set against David Blight's bland and static set, director Caroline Ward keeps the stage busy and the pace slick. The second half does stutter at times amid a slew of clunky short scenes. But this is easily forgotten after seeing the joyously energetic dance finale, which leaves you glowing with optimism.
- Alex Waddington (reviewed at Bradford's Alhambra Studio)