Bombay Black - Theatre Review

By: Saema Nasir

Bombay Black is a theatrical play that can be best described as a dark dance of tragedy. One of the first things that may strike theatre goers who see, Bombay Black, written by Anosh Irani and directed by Peter Hinton are the unique casting choices. I’ll be honest, it took me quite a while to understand why a grown man was playing a teenage girl and why a young woman was playing a middle-aged mother. Perhaps the casting choices are meant to get audience to see each character’s asexual soul, their physical being stripped of labels such as gender and age.  

What also stands out in the play is its sensitive, graphic and gut-wrenching treatment of difficult subject matter. From lack of parental love, to child marriage to incest and a love story at the center of the play, Irani did not shy away from explicit language and direct dialogue to describe painful incidents and difficult and complicated feelings between mother and child and admirer and lover. Each word is important, strung together to create sentences which bejewel the dialogue with plentiful descriptions and introspections.

The actors do a stellar job of portraying their characters. Anusree Roy, as the sharp tongued mother of sorrows, Padma, steals the show with her excellent delivery of comedic lines that provide much needed levity in this otherwise sombre play. Her comedic efforts were applauded with generous laughter at each zinger. Kawa Ada plays the victimized young girl, Apsara and does a respectable job of depicting the body language of a 17 year old female well. His traditional Indian choreographed dancing is electrifying and his femininity blossoms throughout the play. Howard J. Davis provides a very enthusiastic performance as the blinded, mysterious Kamal. The characters have a long, sordid history that binds them together and their stories are full of mystery, horror and intrigue.  

Set in Mumbai, India, Irani's play conjures rich, vivid imagery with his poetic lyricism. The entire production of the play is threadbare, with lighting, music and body language used to replace sets or any form of visual cues. This only serves to highlight the dialogue and acting and in turn reinforces the message of the play. And what is the message? That love conquers revenge? Perhaps it might have been, if the ending was not as ambiguous as it was. However that ambiguity may have been the point – to force us to think about what we want the young lovers’ fates to be.  

In the end, the play leaves much for the audience member to decide. Bombay Black is certainly worth seeing for a thought-provoking theatrical experience that forces you to think outside the box. 

Bombay Black plays at the Factory Theatre until December 6, 2015. 

Photos: Joseph Michael Photography