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Chasing Hares

by on 26 July 2022

Bengal Fire

Chasing Hares

by Sonali Bhattacharyya

Young Vic and Theatre Uncut at the Young Vic, Waterloo until 13th August

Review by Heather Moulson

Poverty, desperation, vast unemployment and an exploitive situation; these were the issues explored in Sonali Bhattacharyya’s new play Chasing Hares.   Set in West Bengal, the stark open set had a floor of loose sand and a revolving square, leaving the actors to work hard to create the scenes.   The simplicity of this design worked well, with employee’s shoes left outside a factory sign … the sign that indicated an exploitative factory. 

Irfan Shamji as Prab was impressive as a loyal husband and father, morphing into a catalyst in the development of the tense situation.   He handled the burden of his moral dilemma skilfully, treating the factory workers as humanely as he was able.   

However, the most watchable was Ayesha Dharker, whose role as Chellam, a witty and cynical singer-cum-actor, was beautifully done.   Glamorous yet disillusioned, she also carried the most insight to the conditions they were living in.   Having an unsatisfactory relationship with Devesh, the spoilt and unprincipled son of the factory owner, was conveyed with strong conviction.   

We saw Prab’s tender side as a father as he told traditional tales to his baby daughter.   Here the lighting excelled with sinister silhouettes of folklore such as looming falcons and overgrowing trees.   However, although the lighting was detailed and followed the story all the way through, it could be rather fierce and intrusive.  It was not really necessary to blind the audience to indicate the impact of a scene.   

In certain moments of Act One, the pace went a little slowly, and overemphasised the points being made.   Act Two redeemed this and speeded up, that brought us skilfully to a brutal climax and the only true ending.   An epilogue set in modern day Britain raised comparisons to similar working conditions and exploitation.   Nicely done. 

A small cast of five, they had to work hard to carry the intensity of the text and they did so with energy and rapport.   Zainab Hasan and Saroja-Lily Ratnavel played the spouse and daughter respectively, and held up their demanding roles with tenderness and genuine fear for their future.   Scott Karim as Devesh played the spoilt libertine with skill as the villain of the piece who walked through the poverty surrounding him with ease.     

Directed in great detail by Milli Bhatia, Chasing Hares is slickly designed by Moi Tran, with an effective soundscape designed by Donato Wharton and lighting by Jai Morjaria.   The Young Vic collaborated in this production with Theatre Uncut, who have an impressive background of bold and political theatre.  This atmospheric and controversial piece runs into the summer.  It is well worthwhile making it an Indian summer with a trip to London, for this insightful look into life in West Bengal.

Heather Moulson, July 2022

Photography by Isha Shah and Akhila Krishnan

  1. celiabard permalink

    What an interesting review. I shall certainly try and see this production.

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