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Papaya, ZOO Charteris (Aviary) – Review

Pros: A potent subject-matter.

Cons: The performances are not all-together convincing.

Pros: A potent subject-matter. Cons: The performances are not all-together convincing. A young Pakistani woman recalls a recurrent nightmare she had as a child, wherein everything around her was white. Objects, people and even her husband. Growing up, she always fantasised about life in the western world and all the beautiful things she could have had if she was living there. Preferring films in English to her native Urdu and bleaching her dark skin with a papaya-flavoured cream, she constantly dreamt of a future in the UK. Finally an adult and married to a man from her own country,…

Summary

Rating

Good

The hangover of colonialist and racist attitudes seen through the eyes of a Pakistani woman settled in the UK.

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A young Pakistani woman recalls a recurrent nightmare she had as a child, wherein everything around her was white. Objects, people and even her husband. Growing up, she always fantasised about life in the western world and all the beautiful things she could have had if she was living there. Preferring films in English to her native Urdu and bleaching her dark skin with a papaya-flavoured cream, she constantly dreamt of a future in the UK.

Finally an adult and married to a man from her own country, she relocates to England with her family and starts working as a maid for a middle-class couple. The husband is never home, whereas his young spouse is the typical depressed housewife, wearing expensive clothes and downing her prescription pills with a glass of red wine. Perfectly groomed and full of pretence, she talks to her maid as to a pet. Her mindset is clearly stuck in colonial times and her false politeness barely disguises the culturally-induced belief that she’s genetically superior. Rooted in white supremacism, her attitude is a hard to eradicate hangover of Britain’s imperialist history.

The maid doesn’t seem to mind. She’s patient, caring and always withdrawn in silence. In secret, though, she despises the world she lives in and regrets her decision to leave her native Pakistan. She’s deeply disheartened by the many expressions of casual racism she hadn’t accounted for in her idyllic vision of the West.

The balance eventually shifts when the wife finds evidence of infidelity, and the maid then observes her employers’ marriage crumble.

Papaya‘s script examines the potent subject matter from an unconventional perspective, however, some unconvincing performances tarnish the final product. A complete absence of soundscape is responsible for some awkwardly empty moments. For instance whilst cast members are getting changed backstage half-way through the play, we can hear zips being undone and jewellery clattering.

The set, on the contrary, is one of the most accomplished I’ve seen during this festival. All in all a good production.

Co-written by: Issam Azzam, Rosemary Moss and Sarah Saraj
Director: Issam Azzam
Producer: UCL Runaround
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run.

About Marianna Meloni

Marianna Meloni
Marianna, being Italian, has an opinion on just about everything and believes that anything deserves an honest review. Her dream has always been to become an arts critic and, after collecting a few degrees, she realised that it was easier to start writing in a foreign language than finding a job in her home country. In the UK, she tried the route of grown-up employment but soon understood that the arts and live events are highly addictive.