Harlesden High Street
Jackdaw Theatre's play exploring life on a London high street contains "real heart and well-judged performances"
Karim's mother Ammi (Sakuntala Ramanee) has failing sight and needs an operation, but the attempts of Karim and Rehaan to hook in customers by calling passers-by ‘beautiful' are failing; they only make a handful of sales a day. Rehaan wants to marry Karim's sister Firoza (never seen on stage), but it seems unlikely that she'd go for someone with such poor prospects.
Essentially this is a tale of immigrants trying to make a success of life in a new country. It includes reflections on what ‘home' is, the difficulties of adjusting to a different culture, and the importance of what you inherit from your family.
The show is simply staged, using wooden crates to good effect to create walls, furniture and shop displays. A video screen displays projections of high streets, bus rides and plane journeys to provide some additional visual context.
The text is written in unrhymed verse, and is accompanied by a trio of musicians on guitar, sitar and percussion which helps with the rhythm and mood of the piece. It still feels like a series of slightly disjointed tableaux, however, and lacks a strong narrative thread.
The most coherent-feeling moments come during a sequence showing the loving relationship between Karim and Ammi, and at the end when a real sense of community is created thanks to a scene in which the shopkeepers learn to turn the ‘great' British weather to their advantage.
This is a relatively short and simple show, but one with real heart and well-judged performances. It deals with immigration in a sensitive and gently humorous manner that is a pleasant antidote to the intolerance that is all-too-often present in today's news.