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Khandan (Birmingham REP)

Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti returns to Birmingham REP in this 'superb' piece about Asian family life.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Sudha Bhuchar (Jeeto) and Rez Kempton (Pal)
© Robert Day

Khandan (Family) is a new play by Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti commissioned by the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in association with the Royal Court. The show's title is very apt and the writing focuses on the Gill family which consists of mother Jeeto, son Pal and his wife Liz, daughter Cookie and her husband Major and their cousin's wife Reema. The play highlights how – no matter what cultural background – families are all different and can be somewhat dysfunctional or unconventional.

There is a comedy element throughout which has the audience laughing out loud at many a point. The writing is occasionally reminiscent of some of the fantastic televised dramas such as Goodness Gracious Me and The Kumars at No 42. The six strong company all have great comic timing and deliver the text with brilliant flair. Alongside the comedy however, there are some hard hitting themes that constantly run underneath and these sub stories anchor the text incredibly well. The Rep's Artistic Director Roxana Silbert has extracted every ounce of fun and emotion from the writing and continues to provide great direction for new writing.

Jamie Vartan's design is superb. The show is staged in the Studio with the audience on three sides and the set extends behind the public. The design represents a Sikh family home with a fully practical kitchen – which must prove to be a logistical nightmare for Stage Management with food and drink being prepared live; but both the actors and SM team manage this skilfully.

Jeeto played by Sudha Bhuchar is the glue that holds together the production. She comes across as quite a cold and harsh character at times but ultimately she holds very traditional family values and honour is a massive deal to her, as shown in the last scene of the play. Rez Kempton as Pal is a driven and perhaps overly ambitious character. He, along with his sister Cookie (Zita Sattar) have been brought up in Britain and are therefore very westernised in the way they choose to live. Pal has an English wife called Liz, played tremendously by Lauren Crace, who adapts to the Indian culture seemingly better than her husband. Crace and Sattar are the real comedic gems in the production and keep it light – even though they are battling their own troubles.

Neil D'Souza as Major is Cookie's long suffering husband who soon realises that his wife has never truly loved him and taps into real emotion moments. Finally Preeya Kalidas plays Reema and it is widely known that she is a woman of many talents. I thought she started off a little hesistant but I soon realised that her character goes on the most interesting journey during the play and she needed somewhere to go with her performance.

I cannot fault the writing, creatives or performers in any way. By far the best production at the Rep since it reopened.

Khandan (Family) is playing at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre until 7 June 2014, and it comes to the Royal Court from 11-28 June 2014