By Marlene Dong in partnership with District Local
Anosh Irani’s award-winning play is a sensory experience. There’s the light sandalwood aroma that envelopes you when you enter the theatre. The din of Indian street life assails your ears, punctuated occasionally by a voice that invites you to imagine yourself as a blind person in Bombay. There are black blindfolds draped over each seat to help you journey into the world of Bombay Black.
Set in present-day Bombay, the play is the story of Apsara (Arshdeep Purba) who lives with her mother Padma (Nimet Kanji). They eke out a living through Apsara’s erotic dances for wealthy men. One day, a mysterious blind man named Kamal (Munish Sharma) comes calling, raising the spectre of a past that has great repercussions in the present.
On the surface, Apsara and Kamal seem to be the main focus of the play, but really, it’s the relationship between Apsara and Padma that make up the heart of Bombay Black. Their power dynamics are riveting and horrifying, and as performed with ferocity and cutting humour by Kanji, Padma is a force to be reckoned with.
If the play is unflinching in its portrayal of vengeance and betrayal, the language is by contrast lush and beautiful. Kamal doesn’t have sight, but he woos Apsara with words that sing and dance in their imagery. During the play’s magical realism scenes, the lighting and sound designs add the perfect elements of poetry and mystery.
In this time of #metoo, the trauma that the two women are revealed to have suffered doesn’t come as a surprise. As sad as that reality is, you’ll emerge from this play reminded of the strength and resilience of women.
Written by Anosh Irani
Directed by Rohit Chokhani
Featuring Nimet Kanji, Arshdeep Purba and Munish Sharma
Bombay Black plays at the Firehall Arts Centre December 5-15. For tickets and info, click here.
Please note that this review is the completely subjective opinion of the specific writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of the other members of Assaulted Fish.