Friday, 4 August 2017

The Perfume Garden, Aug 3, 2017 **1/2

Written by Rajendra Moodley, 
Presented by Australian Bollywood Productions with What’s On Production Company, Ignite Bollywood & Victorian State Ballet
At Chapel off Chapel, until Aug 13, 2017
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Aug 3, 2017 
Stars: **1/2 
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Fri Aug 4, 2017, and later in print. KH
Bollywood movies are a hoot when characters burst spontaneously and hilariously into elaborate song and dance and, in this revival of The Perfume Garden, colourful, live Bollywood numbers pepper Rajendra Moodley’s narrative about an Indian-Australian family.

Anand (Moodley) is a disenchanted, 40-ish, Indian-Australian who still lives with his struggling but ambitious parents (Vishwajeet Pradhan, Laura Lattuada) who run a failing spice shop and care for Ayah (Khema de Silva), an elderly, wheelchair-bound stroke victim and distant relative.

Meanwhile, Anand, an aspiring romantic fiction novelist with writer’s block, half-heartedly courts Devi (Sacha Joseph), a traditional India girl who wants Australian residency.

Paul Watson’s production suddenly comes to life when, 45 minutes into act one, Anand stumbles upon a mysterious Hindu spell that temporarily resurrects Ayah who leaps from her wheelchair to make suggestive comments and join the dancers.

Unfortunately, despite de Silva’s entertaining antics as Ayah, the production is lacklustre with its slow cueing, awkward scenes changes, cluttered staging, and Bollywood segments that are not effectively integrated with the narrative.

Khema de Silva, Rajendra Moodley
Moodley’s script has elements of ‘magical realism’ when Ayah wakes from her comatose state, and the play does make some funny observations about traditional Indian family attitudes and unrealistic expectations about employment and marriage.

However, the dialogue overall is flabby, repetitive and in desperate need of editing.

De Silva is mischievous as the revitalised Ayah and her scenes are certainly the most engaging, while Lattuada provides a riotously saucy Bollywood routine as Chitra when she is affected by Ayah’s sexy charm.

Moodley obviously draws on personal experience for this play, but his performance is unconvincing.

With their vivid costumes and eccentric choreographic blend of sassy, contemporary gestures with classical Indian dance, the Bollywood routines are diverting and several dancers are exceptional, although some of the men forget their moves.

The Perfume Garden is a cheerfully playful show but, ultimately, it does not make a cohesive, theatrical whole.

By Kate Herbert

Anand - Rajendra Moodley
Satya  Vishwajeet Pradhan
Chitra - Laura Lattuada
Ayah - Khema de Silva
Devi  - Sacha Joseph
Khema de Silva, Sacha Joseph, Vishwajeet Pradhan, Laura Lattuada, Rajendra Moodley
 L-R Vishwajeet Pradhan, Laura Lattuada, Rajendra Moodley

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