Pros: Kuran Dohil’s professional stage debut is brilliant and side-splittingly funny. She captivates the audience with her powerful stage presence.
Cons: Does well to avoid sweeping generalisations, but includes some religious stereotypes, especially in the portrayal of convert Simon.
Coming from the same background as the main character, Rumi, this story struck a chord with me! Not only did it highlight the struggles of an interfaith couple, which I have experienced myself, but also the massive difference between religion and culture, a contrast that is never really recognised if you’re not part of a religious community. This debate around culture and religion is brought to the fore in Mir’s brilliant script. Her balance between comedy and drama really provides an authentic view of Islamic culture and how, even though Rumi wasn’t religious in the slightest, she still felt she needed to go along with the rules in order to be accepted.
This brings me nicely onto the character of Rumi; actress Kuran Dohil’s acting debut was honestly the best part of the whole production for me. Her ability to deliver Muslim related jokes had me and the others in the audience laughing out loud. When she is contemplating changing her image for her husband, Dohil’s dramatic performance is raw and effortless. Nothing tops the opening scene, however; her reaction to ‘halal speed dating’ sets up the comedic tone of the character and has the audience in stitches. The playful relationship between Rumi and ‘Riz,’ her conscience, is hilarious and even empowering at some points. It allowed me as an audience member to get a real sense of the inner workings of Rumi’s brain and I felt closer to her.
The use of maximum 10 minute, short scenes constantly kept me alert. It really allowed me to see the progression of characters over a long period of time. I always think a show is strong in direction when an 80 minute play can seamlessly span a year or more, and here it is credit to Madelaine Moore. The transitions are slick with set being used simply and effectively to represent a kitchen, a mosque, a cliff top and more. I believed we were in all those places, and it was a great use of space.
This play takes a complete 360° turn when it comes to Rumi and Simon’s relationship. My only criticism is that it does tread on thin ice when it begins stereotyping Simon in the last few scenes. His loveable early character is almost completely forgotten by the end of the play. The plot twist is unexpected, but meant I left the theatre with a sense of resolution.
With tickets ranging from £9-£15, Coconut is amazing value for money, and despite being a one act production it goes into depth with serious issues such as interfaith relationships and the culture vs. religion debate. But it also provides plenty of laughs, as well as an education for the audience in swearing in Punjabi!
Author: Guleraana Mir
Director: Madelaine Moore
Producer: In Good Company
Box Office: 020 7582 7680
Booking Link: http://www.ovalhouse.com/whatson/detail/coconut
Booking Until: Saturday 28 April