• Friday, June 21, 2024

Reviews

New stage version of novel remains relevant

THE BUDDHA OF SUBURBIA

By: Anjali Mehta

THE theatre adaptation of Hanif Kureshi’s My Beautiful Launderette has shown that many of the writer’s themes still resonate today.

That is perhaps why his acclaimed 1990 debut novel The Buddha of Suburbia has returned for another stage adaptation at Swan Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The loosely semi-autobiographical story set in 1970s South London, previously adapted into an iconic TV drama in the 1990s, revolves around an aspiring teenage actor of a mixed race background named Karim. Caught up in the crossfire of his white and Indian identities, he negotiates a minefield of issues that includes his own bisexuality and finding a sense of belonging.

The story looks at sex, class, infidelity, divorce, racism and an excessive drugs scene as the young man goes on a journey of self-discovery, while trying to understand his cultural roots.

Director Emma Rice injects the colorful story with clever touches from start to finish in a beautifully staged production with plenty of power. The retro soundtrack of diverse songs adds an extra layer of coolness to the show filled with strong performances from an accomplished cast.

The heartbeat of the production is a standout performance from Dee Ahluwalia as Karim.

He has great stage presence and a natural charm on stage, which makes him pleasing to watch.

Tommy Belshaw as the egotistical Charlie is colourfully flamboyant, while Ankur Bahl’s cold Haroon injects the right level of emotional detachment and pathos to render him both a victim and perpetrator of the destruction of his marriage.

The other cast members give accomplished performances.

The main flaw of this production is Rice cramming too many elements of the book into this production, which results in a nearly three-hour show that feels too long. The choreography could have been tidier and there was perhaps an opportunity to add more humour. Ultimately the 1970s coming of age story remains relevant and shows why writer Hanif Kureishi was so ahead of his time.

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