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Two Billion Beats

by on 27 January 2023

And Then What?

Two Billion Beats

by Sonali Bhattacharyya

Orange Tree Productions at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond until 4th February  

Review by Louis Mazzini  

When a theatre is full of young people you know that the artistic director – and the cast and playwright – are doing something right, especially as some West End theatres and amateur groups are still struggling to recover their audience to pre-Covid levels.  The Orange Tree Theatre, in Richmond, is one of the best small theatres in London and great things are expected from Tom Littler, the new artistic director formerly at Jermyn St Theatre.  And things have got off to a good start with Two Billion Beats, an engaging and realistic two-hander, directed in this revival by Nimmo Ismail and Tian Brown-Sampson.

Sonali Bhattacharyya’s play premiered at the Orange Tree in 2002 and, if anything, it is even better second time around.  As sisters Asha and Bettina, played by Shala Nyx and Tanvi Virmani, are simply superb.  Like most teenagers, seventeen-year-old Asha wants to put the world right and end injustice.  She is inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, the Pankhursts and the less well-known Dr BR Ambedkar, an Indian politician who championed the so-called “untouchables”.  Asha is impassioned and when her beloved younger sister Bettina is bullied, she is initially supportive.  However, when Bettina overplays her tactical response to the bully, Asha takes steps that make no sense at all unless you’re a teenager.  Ahead of the Leavers’ Assembly at the end of the summer term, the two girls need to decide for themselves what really matters and what they should do about it … …

Bhattacharyya’s script is a little overstuffed with ideas, some of which do not come off, but there is no denying its ability to pull the audience in to the lives of young people, seen through the lens of two Asian girls, but relatable for teenagers of all ages and ethnicities.  Two Billion Beats is highly recommended to all.

Louis Mazzini, January 2023

Photography courtesy of OTT

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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