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The Theatreguide.London Review

Approaching Empty
 
Kiln Theatre   January 2019

Margaret Thatcher opens Ishy Din's play about a group of taxi drivers in Middlesbrough.

Two of them sit in their taxi office listening to a television report of Thatcher's death before one of them dismisses it with the words 'Fuck Thatcher.'

But her legacy shapes what happens in Approaching Empty, a phrase which refers to a taxi becoming available as it delivers a passenger and as an image for the continuing desolation of British industry.

And in case we think Thatcher is merely peripheral to the story, Raf (Nicholas Khan), the owner of the firm, argues with his old friend and office manager Mansha (Kammy Darweish) that Thatcher was right to get rid of the old industries and move on.

He certainly has grounds for saying that, given he is suffering a lung disease from his former work in manufacturing, and as the play begins seems successful in this post-industrial world.

Mansha has a different view. He romanticises the days of 'real work' making things rather than simply being part of one big service sector.

Their lives unfold in utterly believable and often humorous dialogue that brings to life characters that include an unusual depiction of Asian gender relations in the positive friendship between the assertive tough minded woman cab driver Sameena (Rina Fatania) and Mansha's son Sully (Nicholas Prasad) who is also a driver at the company.

The first half of the play drives comfortably on conversations that you might hear anywhere. They spark with observational accuracy but never give us a focused plot line.

That changes after the interval when, as the difficulties of the firm escalate, the play becomes overheated in its illustration of the horror of Thatcherism.

And as friendships and family ties come under increased strain the volume on the television suddenly rises to remind us of its patron saint, with a voice from her funeral saying 'these are the remains of Mrs Thatcher.'

Keith McKenna

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Review -  Approaching Empty - Kiln Theatre 2019