Review: Blood, Soho Theatre

“Starts with family, ends with family, family in the middle”

From deliciously awkward beginnings involving self-penned rap, Nando’s hot sauce and shisha pipes, it is clear that college students Caneze and Sully have got a definite spark going on as their teenage passion ignites. But whether in Shakespeare’s fair Verona or this Midlands Pakistani community, family is the thing and her mother and over-protective older brother with his gang connections are dead set against the relationship. So what do they do? They meet in secret, Sully sneaking into Caneze’s bedroom through the window like a wannabe Romeo.  

Emteaz Hussain’s Blood is a co-production from Tamasha and Coventry’s Belgrade theatre and is a striking two-hander, inspired by Romeo and Juliet but forging its own path through the complex maze of family and community ties both in the UK and Pakistan, trying to force our young lovers into age-old predefined notions of marriage, religion, duty. Written in a free-flowing mix of Mirjuri-Punjabi and English, Hussain delivers an utterly convincing world of youth speak and yet one in which understanding is never sacrificed for authenticity. 

Credit for this clarity also goes to director Esther Richardson who gives us a pared-back production which allows for the emotional literacy to really shine. With just Krupa Pattani’s intense Caneze and Adam Samuel-Bal’s lanky Sully on stage, the power to conjure the external world against which they are fighting lies largely in the expression of their internal monologues and it is very well done. Samuel-Bal shows off prodigious comic skills in impersonating his Pakistani relatives and Pattani is just spell-binding as the walls of her family’s vigilance close in. 

They’re also compelling as the lovers themselves too, Pattani subtly suggesting the deep sadness of a young woman realising what she needs to abandon to live the life she wants and Samuel-Bal almost impossibly compassionate in his understanding. Aideen Malone’s lighting cleverly switches up the functionality of Sara Perks design and the brooding sound design and contemporary compositions from Arun Ghosh form an integral part of the cross-cultural world that they – and so many others – must negotiate. 

Running time: 75 minutes (without interval) 
Photo: Robert Day

Booking until 16th May, then touring to Birmingham Repertory Theatre; The Studio, Bradford Theatres; Redbridge Drama Centre; Pegasus Theatre, Oxford; Bolton Octagon; Tron Theatre, Glasgow; Derby Theatre; Luton Hat Factory; and Leicester Curve 

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