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Behna (Sisters)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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This site-specific production which takes place within an urban house in the city centre of Birmingham is the product of the collaboration of three Midlands based producing networks; Kali Theatre, Black Country Touring, and Birmingham REP.

In what can only be described as an extremely successful collaboration we are treated to an engaging, heart warming, and believable evening of drama which is taken out of the constraints of a typical theatrical auditorium and placed within its natural setting. The setting plays a large part in the productions success by using the space to highlight and enhance the productions core ethics of family and home. Being a house, it is easy to feel invited and familiar in a setting we can place our own lives within.

Certainly being part of the family is how one feels immediately when arriving at the door; in a clever pre-show prologue we join the family in the lounge to share drinks, eat Samosas, and sing along to Bhangra tunes. Cleverly directed by Janet Steel this ingenious introduction allows us to develop a back-story to the protagonists in an informal and subtle manner.

Once the party atmosphere dies down we are taken into the main performance space, the kitchen; a wise choice in that this is the heart of most households. The close proximity between audience and actors, squeezed into the inner city home, allows an emotional exchange between the two which can often be missing in the typical restraints of live theatre.

Whilst themes of the production do base themselves around Indian culture this is by no means a play for strictly Indian audiences or at the same time a dumbed down representation of family life for British audience members. The play is the perfect combination of the two, picking moments that one can relate to no matter what our ethnic back grounding. The themes are universal; be it relationships, tradition, or sisterhood. It could be said that some of the woven storylines do verge on melodrama; however, we still enjoy seeing them unfold as the evening progresses and are in turn entertained by the way they develop.

This production is certainly a break from the norm for most of the theatre-going public, and an enjoyable one at that.

- Ben Wooldridge


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