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The Great Extension

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Cosh Omar's follow up to his The Battle of Green Lanes again dares to move in dangerous territory, examining both British and Asian attitudes to a range of issues that in the current climate of political correctness appear to be a minefield full of 'No Go' areas.

But Omar walks where 'angels fear to tread' to bring us a new minted and uproarious farce where issues of multiculturalism, racism, faith, conflict, sexuality and nationhood meet head on, where both characters and audience are confronted and confounded by what they believe and publicly voice, and arguments from all sides are placed on the table before us.

On a superb set that radiates opulence we meet Hassan, a second generation Turk, played with manic energy by Cosh Omar, who up till now has a led a blissful, if somewhat eccentric bachelor life in London's suburbs where his 'tastefully' decorated house is kept spick and span by his even more tastefully decorated houseboy Sanjay (a superb performance by Raj Ghatak). Sanjay brings a dignity and pride to his transgender character that makes him the most sympathetic; he knows who he is, as can be seen in his superb series of putdown lines, and, in one of the most poignant speeches in the play, we see how well adjusted he is in comparison to the rest.

After a wild night Hassan, who suffers from alcohoholic amnesia, realises that he has married a Muslim girl. Whilst trying to come to terms with this he is confronted by his builder, who wants instructions for the extension, and then the next door neighbour, a very English Mr Brown, who insists that the land is his and that he is taking taking steps to prevent any further work.

Before Hassan can resolve anything the door bell chimes (to the tune of "Jerusalem") and he is greeted by the girl's Pakistani family who have tracked her down and are out for his blood. Into this heady mix comes Hassan's father, an anti-Islamist and devotee of Ataturk.

Stratford East's tradition as a community theatre is well served by this production with its excellent cast of eccentric and extreme characters who maintain an individuality that outweigh the stereotypes they represent. The themes are challenging and the performances, under Kerry Michael's direction, are slick and savvy in this a rollercoaster of a ride, full of unseen twists and turns, that keeps us on our toes and wildly amused.

- Dave Jordan


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