Families don’t come perfectly packaged like we see on the television adverts, and in Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s new production Elephant, she explores the truth behind the word family and all the secrets, lies, deception and disagreement that comes with it.
Elephant is a thought-provoking and commanding production that delves into the lives of a British Asian family. Telling the story of Deesh, a mother of two young adults Amy and Bill and her husband Barry, they feel as if they are constantly putting on a facade and showcasing their family life as perfect. Deesh hasn’t seen her sister Vira for years and when she arrives at the house for Amy’s party, everyone wants to know why. The family are built on secret and lies and this soon spirals into a huge emotional climax.
It’s a poignant production that has the perfect balance of light-hearted humour and witty sarcasm that soon transcends into a powerful performance as tensions arise. Their family dynamics feel genuine and relatable as they make passing comments about Facebook, Whatsapp and Eastenders. At just under 90 minutes straight through, it’s a play with immense pace as the five characters shift the narrative along in a slick and concise way.
We are introduced to Amy (Raagni Sharma) and Bill (Farshid Rokey) who are stuck in their lives. Amy has been offered a job in New York and is making the big move, and her outgoing and confident personality drives her to fight against her mother’s traditionalist ways. Rokey’s performance as Bill is engaging as his withdrawn persona has an air of mystery about it, which gives his character progression huge impact.
However, it’s the central relationship between sisters Deesh (Yasmin Wilde) and Vira (Sukh Ojla) that strikes a real chord. The ambiguity around Vira’s life and how she ended up in a council flat with a tarnished relationship with her sister is intriguing, and the moments where she dips into an explanation have the audience hung on by a thread. Wilde’s portrayal of Deesh is strong as she puts up a front to protect her family.
The performances touch’s heavily on gender roles and highlight Vira’s struggle with her identity after doing everything for her husband and children. The confrontation between Vira and her sister is crafted well and creates a moving performance as they connect with the audience enabling us to feel a strong sense of empathy.
Emotions run high into an explosive and unexpected ending that captures all the difficulties of family dynamics and propels them into a high-powered performance by every actor on stage. Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s production is a concise piece of theatre that captures the difficulty of families excellently in a sharp and intricate way.
On at the Birmingham Rep until the 3rd of March, tickets can be found online.