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Unsung, Rosemary Branch Theatre – Review

by Ayndrilla Singharay
Directed by Lucy Allan
★★★★

Pros: Intense plot and acting filled with emotion and surprises, with an overwhelming ending.

Cons: The slight over-acting made the scenes look too staged at times.

Our Verdict: A gripping and haunting story about love and family, fantastic script and setting. I highly recommend it!

Courtesy of Rosemary Branch Theatre

Unsung is writer Ayndrilla Singharay’s reinterpretation of a short story by Rabindranath Tagore called Punishment. The original piece is set in a little village in India: two wives married to siblings fight for control of their lives with dire consequences for both. Tagore wrote it as example of the social problems India was facing, such as the oppression of women who were devoid of any economic or social power – silence being the only tool they were allowed to wield for their protection.

Set in modern day London, Unsung gives the story a new voice. Rana and Ash are two brothers living with their wives; The older brother, Rana (played by Rez Kabir), is married in the more traditional way to Megh (played by Nadia Nadif) who flew from a village in India to meet her husband. The younger brother, Ash (portrayed by Niall Ray), is newly married to Joy (Avita Jay), who was raised in London. Tradition, family honor and the importance of children are some of the subjects the play is built upon. And it is because of these themes that Rana and Megh have an explosive argument that leads to a life-altering result. Rana plots to blame Joy and manipulates Ash to back it up. As in the original play, silence is the only thing Joy can use as protection.

The stage of the Rosemary Branch Theatre was decorated in a way that evoked a traditional Indian home. There were bright red chilies hanging from the back, and old portraits placed everywhere. I thought it to be a very personal choice of scenery; we weren’t only stepping into the story, but a little into the author’s world and influences. This decor was a great setting for generally strong performances. However, these were occasionally over-acted, which was a shame as it caused the scenes to come across as staged, thus breaking the otherwise engrossing atmosphere. Other than this, the plot, the flow between scenes and the staging all combined well to make the audience feel, not just see the show.

In a crucial moment, Ash reads out loud Tagore’s poem ‘song unsung’, which lies at the very core of this story. It was perfectly placed to illustrate Joy’ feelings throughout her ordeal. The sadness and melancholy Avita Jay was transmitting through her performance were all around the theatre, but when Ray softly read the verse “the time has not come true, the words have not been rightly set, only there is agony of wishing in my heart“, Joy’s situation became something real, something alive inside you not just out of a play. It was moments like these which made Unsung a haunting and stirring story.

Although slightly over-acted, by the end you felt you knew the characters personally. This is a remarkable achievement, so hats off to this great production. Stirring theatre, highly recommended.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Unsung runs from 30th August to 8th September at the Rosemary Branch Theatre. 
Box Office: 020 7704 6665 or or book online at http://www.rosemarybranch.co.uk

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Founded in 2011, Everything Theatre started life as a pokey blog run by two theatre enthusiasts and – thanks to the Entry Pass Scheme for 16-25 year olds – regular National Theatre goers. Today, we are run by part-time volunteers from a wide array of backgrounds. Among our various contributors are people who work in theatre, but also people who work in law, medicine, events, marketing and even psychiatry! We are all united by our love for the London theatre scene.