Tonight was my third show in three days, and it was the third one to focus on Mothers. Universe, are you trying to tell me to call my Mom? Because I totally will, I swear.
After seeing frustrated Vera in LIKE WOLVES, and excitable Nana in FOR THE PLEASURE OF SEEING HER AGAIN, tonight was time for something a little different. Where those other shows had wonderful actresses portraying Mothers, Magnetic North went and did them one better by featuring actual Mother (and non-actor) Asha Jain and her son Ravi together on stage for the exhilarating A BRIMFUL OF ASHA. Created by the real-life Mother/Son combo, and produced by Ravi’s Why Not Theatre outta Toronto (Ottawa should remember Ravi as half of the magnificent comedy duo from SPENT at the first Undercurrents Festival two years back), this show is indeed a play like no other. At least, none that I’ve ever seen.
Entering Academic Hall, we’re greeted by Ravi and Asha, offering smiles, conversation, and some tasty samosas, so already a pretty sweet evening right there. Once the show begins, it’s so honest and conversational you’re hard pressed to even call it Theatre. The story we follow between Mother and Son details their years of disagreement, head-butting and arguing over the central subject of Marriage, something clearly very dear to Asha’s heart. But her traditional Indian values on matrimony are somewhat alien to her Canadian born-and-raised son, who seems to think he should have some kind of say in who he marries. We spend the next hour and a half hearing both of their sides of the story, and it turns out to be quite the tale. Aside from being a perfectly fascinating firsthand account of the rather startling cultural differences between Canada and India, this is one of the most purely wonderful shows I have EVER seen, and you can take that to the bank and punch them in the face with it.
Ravi Jain is, as I already learned at SPENT, a seriously talented performer, and it shows. But his greater talent might lay in convincing his traditional Indian Mother to go on tour with him in this play, a feat for which we are all the better. Asha, admittedly not a performer and with English as a second language, is still more engaging than most actors you’ll find within swinging distance. She spends most of her time on stage contradicting her son, letting us all know what a big liar he is, and getting some of the biggest laughs this town has ever heard. Their give and go is hysterical and heartwarming, and if it weren’t completely real it wouldn’t be even half as effective, but the fact that we’re actually listening to this dude getting schooled by his Mom on stage is just priceless. Their recounting of her tireless efforts to get Ravi married off are pretty impressive, including a lengthy scheme to match him up with a newscaster from Bombay (‘She’s average looking’ Asha describes the woman in question, ‘…so okay for Ravi’).
Tensions do arise from time to time, as even a familial clash of cultures can get heated, and Mom and son do a great job of showing us just how bad things got. I laughed like Hell during this show, one of the most unique and merry theatrical experiences I’ve yet had. It only has a handful of shows to go in the festival, so hit it while you can, you won’t be sorry. Peace, love and soul,
Kevin Reid, the Visitor (and Winston)