theSpace at Niddry St – Studio
For a show labelled as a work in progress, Coconut is incredible, featuring none of the rough edges you might expect. This “love letter to brown girls” is engrossing from the start, and Rea Malhotra Mukhtyar’s performance creates an intimate atmosphere where you feel deeply connected with both character and performer. This production is fluid and immersive – the fifty-minute run-time flies by.
Ellora Kamineni’s writing lends Coconut, a young brown girl trying to reconcile the pressures of her family with her own dreams and desires, a fragile but passionate voice. The script is concise and snappy, balancing hilarious one-liners, she sarcastically shows off her boyfriend’s latest present – a gold necklace that spells out Ben’s Bitch, with tragic expressions; “I’m a failed brown girl”, she announces.
Mukhtyar’s portrayal of Coconut is immediately riveting and full of energy as she throws herself about the stage in an intensely physical and emotionally charged performance. She quickly draws the audience into Coconut’s mind, where we remain embedded for the entire runtime. Neetu Singh’s direction accentuates this relentless energy, as Mukhtyar darts about the stage, delivering fiery monologues to specific audience members, making full use of Niddry Street’s upstairs theatre.
The plot is gripping, following Coconut across several weeks of her life as she begins to break through into acting, come to terms with the death of her sister, and navigate her increasingly complex love life. This love life is constantly brought up in the awkward family dinners that punctuate her week, forcing her to navigate demanding expectations from her parents involving returning to Med school to become a doctor. She explores casual sex and confused attraction as she drily presents the pitfalls of dating as a brown girl with honesty and humour. Coconut is unrelenting, constantly shifting in both setting and tone.
Every moment seems connected thanks to Singh and Mukhtyar’s excellent use of staging and lighting, never feeling disjointed or awkward. Realistic lighting and sound go hand in hand with Mukhtyar’s performance to transform the stage into anything from a house party dance floor to the lingerie section of Primark. The audience is close to the stage, which reinforces the production’s intimacy, while the set is minimalistic, with a single chair and the floor covered by post-it notes. These post-it notes, Coconut explains, are a therapist-sanctioned way of her family expressing their thoughts and emotions when they feel unable to talk. At once a reminder of family trauma and her parents’ unavailability, they help to symbolise the pressure bearing down on her. The largely empty stage also allows for this pressure to be expressed through more physical theatre – dance sequences are wild, exciting, and often very funny.
As this pressure reaches a climax, a tragic twist in Coconut’s life begins to reveal itself, and the relief in the room was palpable as she finally begins to unpack her trauma with others in her life, leading to a bittersweet but ultimately hopeful ending. This production is visceral, dominated by a sense of fluidity and interconnection that lends the performance an incredible energy. This energy helps to present a piece of new writing that is moving in its exploration of ethnicity and tradition, whilst also being extremely enjoyable.
Written and produced by: Ellora Kamineni
Directed by: Neetu Singh
Coconut plays at EdFringe until 26 August. Further information and bookings can be found here.