sun 10/12/2023

Anuvab Pal, Soho Theatre review - Empire and Bollywood collide | reviews, news & interviews

Anuvab Pal, Soho Theatre review - Empire and Bollywood collide

Anuvab Pal, Soho Theatre review - Empire and Bollywood collide

Shaggy dog story with some history thrown in

Anuvab Pal talks of his brush with the lawKarla Gowlett

Anuvab Pal may be a new name to some UK audiences (although many will know him from the global satirical podcast The Bugle), but he is well known in his native India.

And it is with a wry look at Indian history – and the British role within it – that he begins his show Democracy and Disco Dancing, a version of which he previously brought to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2019.

Pal introduces himself, saying he looks like “I work for HSBC in risk management” but in reality he's has some thought-provoking and funny gags about the India-Great Britain relationship. He takes us through Partition (“the original Brexit”), the Empire days and its long array of posh ex-public schoolboys who ran the country, and then further back to the East India Company, which effectively governed India at one point.

It's strong material and light on its feet, and I wish the same could be said for the rest of the show, as Pal devotes a lot of time and energy to telling what is essentially a shaggy dog story.

Disco Dancer is a 1982 Bollywood film written by Rahi Masoom Raza and directed by Babbar Subhash, which the proud director said is a drama but which Pal attests is a comedy because its storyline is so preposterous.

Pal recounts the complicated narrative, assigns various characters to members of the audience so we can more easily follow the twisty-turny plot and then, after a chunk of time and seeing a few clips, asks us to vote on whether we agree with him or the director.

The director was, Pal tells us, so miffed at him making comedy out of his work that he sued him, using a little known piece of law instituted by one of the chinless wonders that Pal references earlier.

It's a neat callback, and Pal is a good storyteller, but the payoff to the Disco Dancer segment – such as it is, when it eventually comes – is painfully weak and thrown away. And then, in a jarring segue, the comic talks about how Zoom has taken over our lives in the past 18 months.

Pal is an engaging and likeable presence on stage, qualities that are just enough to pull the show through. But it needs a good edit.

Pal is an engaging and likeable presence


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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