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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Snookered
Bush Theatre   Spring 2012 and touring

A group of old friends gather for a reunion, in part to celebrate the memory of a departed buddy. In the course of a drink-fueled evening, what was meant to be a happy occasion turns irredeemably sour. It's a conventional story, the basis of dozens of plays, films and TV dramas, with a formula we all know by heart.

Joshing insults will begin to go too far as buried animosities and jealousies come out. Secrets will be revealed and truths spoken. The butt of everyone's teasing will turn and blurt out something that all but one of the others have known. The seemingly strongest will prove most needy. The one who moved away will admit to being lonely in his freedom. And the dead friend will be exposed as less than sentimental memory has made him.

Ishy Din's new play for the Asian-focussed company Tamasha touches every base and ticks off every clich of the formula, and while you might not be able to predict every detail (like exactly what the secret about the dead friend is), you'll be one step ahead of the playwright at every point, with nothing to surprise you.

Ishy Din offers only one noteworthy variant on the formula. His characters are not unhappy homosexuals as in Matt Crowley's Boys In The Band (1968), or former teammates as in Jason Miller's That Championship Season (1972), or fan club members as in Ed Graczyck's Come Back To The Five And Dime Jimmy Dean Jimmy Dean (1982), or Hollywood types as in David Rabe's Hurlyburly (1984), or race fans as in Brett Neveu's Red Bud (2010), or even neighbours gathered to comfort a grieving friend as in Alan Ayckbourn's Absent Friends (currently in the West End). 

They are young British Pakistanis in a northern city. And that doesn't make as much difference as the playwright would hope. 

There is always some value in seeing an under-represented group treated seriously in drama, and that recognition might mean more to Tanasha's core audience than it can to others. 

But that – the acknowledgement that young Pakistani men can have the same experiences that are familiar in plays about others - is really is all that this version of the same old story has to offer. 

Director Iqbal Khan keeps things moving and, as a comparison of the playing text and published version shows, wisely cut some of the playwright's unnecessary over-explanation of characters and motives. Muzz Khan, as the brash one, and Jaz Deol, as the one who moved away, are most successful in fleshing out their characters.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -   Snookered -  Tanasha at Bush Theatre 2012

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