Pros: All of the cast gave a good performance.
Cons: An hour of sitting passively watching someone being bullied can get a bit depressing.
The scene is an Indian restaurant – from the looks of the decor I’m guessing 1970s – run by a husband and wife team. Sadjit (Kal Samir) who covers the front of house longs to be a published poet whilst his wife Thila, the chef (Natalie Perera), is more pragmatic, helping relatives and running the business a going concern. Over the 70 minutes or so duration of the play they are visited by two sets of customers. Dating couple Rupert (Ben Warwick) and Celia (Victoria Broom), and skinheads Diesel (Mitchell Fisher) and Spaceman (Sam Rix).
Rupert is a snob who keeps referring to Sadjit as a servant without an iota of creativity. Celia is condescending in the extreme, pretending to be a close friend of Sadjit and calling him “darling” all the time. Skinheads Diesel and Spaceman are loud, offensive and physically intimidating not only to the restauranteurs but also the other customers. Sam Rix does a good job of being particularly unsettling and sexually intimidating towards the women, and Mitchell Fisher maintained a smiling countenance that made his actions and words even more menacing. None of these characters are at all likeable, and each one attempts to bully, intimidate or lord it over Sadjit and Thila in different ways.
The portrayal of the various types of bullish behaviour was unrelenting and uncomfortable to watch, the small theatre increasing the feeling of being trapped. There was a low point when Sadjit descended the reprehensible route of siding with the skinheads in their offensiveness towards his wife to take the heat off himself. It didn’t work, of course. Towards the end some attempts at humour didn’t sit well with the rest of the script and fell flat, so no respite there.
There were some nice touches with the set, such as the brown and orange check table covers and even a Blue Nun wine bottle. Didn’t realise you could still buy that.
An hour of watching such intense bullying is more than enough, especially when the attempts at humour do not work. There was a lot of repetition of actions and nothing really moved on, the questions in the blurb (e.g. what happens when you are bullied and are powerless to fight back?) not being addressed. It felt like a twenty minute episode cut from a larger narrative piece and then stretched to over an hour. This was a shame, as the cast were all very good and it did raise some interesting questions about about the effects of victimisation.
Author: Alexander Matthews
Director: Evan Keele
Production Manager: Daniel Palmer
Booking Until: 24 March 2018
Box Office: 020 3841 6600
Booking Link: https://www.tristanbatestheatre.co.uk/whats-on/glass-roots