Emilia Di Luca
Before we see the stage, the spicy aroma of samosas and lively sounds of Bollywood float in the air. A gust of Indian culture sweeps us onto the stage and into the “home” of Ravi Jain and his mother, Asha.
Creators and performers, Ravi and Asha return to Toronto with their show, A Brimful of Asha. The rich performance, “not a play” according to Asha, grew from a 15-minute piece to a 90-minute show in the hands of Ravi’s Why Not Theatre. Initially, the collaboration between Why Not, a tad unconventional, and Soulpepper, infamously canonical, seem an unlikely pair; however, the soul of A Brimful of Asha fits Soulpepper perfectly.
Although Ravi’s show pronounces its Indian roots, the story is familiar to families of many cultures. Born from real events, A Brimful of Asha addresses two competing perspectives on love and marriage. Specifically, Asha traces Ravi’s hilarious, but stressful journey after he strikes a deal with his mother: let his parents help him find a wife, under his conditions, of course.
I saw A Brimful of Asha when it played at Tarragon Theatre in 2012. I didn’t note any critical difference between the productions—both made me laugh equally hard. In fact, I’m happy it didn’t change. The show touches a timeless topic with a simple charm and makes the audience feels as though they are family. The venue was just about the only thing that did change.
Courtesy of set designer Julie Fox, the same golden drapes tickle the stage floor and the same television screen hangs above the dining table, which holds a tray of samosas. One by one, we walk onto the stage where Ravi and Asha shake our hands and offer samosas. Ravi says, “Make yourself at home” so I grab a samosa and a seat.
The show begins, but house lights don’t go down. Unlike a traditional play, Ravi and Asha talk to us. Ravi mediates between conversing and story-telling. Eventually, Ravi slams his fist on the table bringing house lights down and the duo reenacts a fight. The mother-son pair annotates their dramatic scene with an explanation of its creation. In short, the show deals with serious topics in a lighthearted manner.
In addition, the television lends to the show’s authenticity; pictures of young Asha on her wedding day, among other photos, pass by on the screen. Also, maps fade in and out to navigate the audience through Ravi’s trip around India.
From the images to the samosas, A Brimful of Asha loosens up Soulpepper’s formal space and makes itself—and the audience—feel right at home.
In collaboration with Soulpepper, Why Not Theatre’s Brimful of Asha will return at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts from October 8th-11th of this year. Purchase tickets at https://www.soulpepper.ca/.