“Where are they? I can’t be dealing with this Indian timing”
The second Birmingham Rep show to make its bow in London this month (Rachel De-lahay’s Circles being the first), Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s Khandan (Family) transferred for a short run at the Royal Court upstairs. Bhatti explores the dynamics of a first-generation Sikh family and their various complex ties to the notion of ‘home’, whether the Punjab to which matriarch Jeeto longs to return after emigrating to Birmingham in 1969 or the England in which her children were born.
Roxana Silbert’s production has much to appreciate in it but not really enough to engage and truly enjoy. The play skates over the domestic travails of all concerned but without ever really digging deep into the characters, they remain little more than ciphers. Rez Kempton’s ambitious Pal clearly loves his wife Liz yet her pain at their childlessness, something which Lauren Crace evokes beautifully, is something he brutally ignores. Oddities like these are scattered throughout, driving the plot at the expense of character credibility.
Which thus makes it hard to really care about them, even as their relative Reema rocks up, escaping a disastrous marriage in India but about to cause more waves here. Preeya Kalidas is strong as Reema as is Sudha Bhuchar as the fierce but not unbending Jeeto, still teaching her children lessons even at her advanced age. But the cumulative effect of the whole production, in Jamie Vartan’s domestic set design, is simply of a soap opera rather than stirring drama.