Sonali Bhattacharyya’s play about the zero-hour workforce culture, is fast paced and funny and forces you to laugh and think and laugh, and think in succession as she uses the back story of a Bengali factory juxtaposed with the unethical workforces’ practises in the UK in the early 2000’s.
The story goes like this Prah is a working class aspiring writer and factory worker played by Irfan Shamji and is married to Kajol (Zainab Hasan) with daughter, one day they visit an enacting of a traditional Bengali folk theatre. Little known to Prah he is about to get his big break as a writer. Prah is a former stand up straight guy who used to believe in the Union now sees himself caught up with doing the dirty work for his boss the bash and rude Dev, son of the factory owner played by Scot Karim.
Milli Bhatia “Chasing Hares” is a play within a play both revealing shocking narratives that of Prah real-life crisis that sees him battle with right and wrong at a workplace were children are exploited and in turn their families and a world where female workers in Bengali having their wombs removed to prevent productivity from being interrupted.
Working as new writer on the play sees Prah strike up an friendship with the beautiful leading lady Chellam played by Ayesha Dharker, who he is in awe of and the two actors work a little magic with their on-stage chemistry. Chellam is a modern woman who wants work that means something to her as an actor and is excited when Prah steps in to rewrite hoping it not be met by the aggression of Dev who is also has a part in the production and is backing it financially.
The play as the writer describes it is “a love letter to all the organisers, activists and dreamers” and it is indeed, a thoroughly enjoyable thought provoking play that makes you think about the treatment of women and the current UK strikes and activism and how much or how little has changed for workers globally.
It all comes to a head when Prah’s political consciousness is pricked by an accident in the factory and he has to choose as Irfan told ALT “between comfort and doing what is right”. Fine writing by Bhattacharyya and fine acting by a stellar cast makes for a play worth seeing.
Runs at Young Vic, London, until 13 August.