Romance, love, marriage, children, stability and a career, is it possible to for a couple to have all this in their relationship? This is the central premise in Kali Productions latest play Bitched by Sharon Raizada which is currently playing in Soho’s Tristan Bates Theatre.
Ali (Shireen Farkhoy) has a two-year-old son and an, as yet, undiscovered artist husband by the name of Rob (Darren Douglas). While Rob tries to get himself discovered – and seems to work part-time in the catering industry – Ali does everything else. In order to keep the home moving, Ali has had to move from being a top Vidal Sassoon stylist to working part-time in a local hairdresser’s where the pay is pitiful and the prospects non-existent. As she contemplates a not too great future, Rob has been noticed by Shoreditch gallery owner Nirjay (Robert Mountford) and his wife Suzanne (Viss Elliot Safavi). While Ali is fully supportive of her husband and is potentially pleased that Rob is moving on, she is upset that as his career starts to take off, he has less interest in her, their son and anything else that isn’t directly involved with his life and career. Ali feels trapped by her life, her husband and by the gallery owners but hey, what can she do about it?
Bitched is an interesting story of female empowerment. Both Ali and Suzanne are living unfulfilled lives – though for different reasons – and neither seems to be able to to find a way out of them. Watching the show as an outsider to their relationships I actually felt that Ali was having a truly terrible time of it and, in some ways Robert was, to my mind, guilty of some form of psychological abuse. His insistence on Ali supporting him unreservedly was almost Victorian, and his suggestion they have a second child came across as just a way to keep the little woman happy and busy. Suzanne and Nirjay’s relationship was completely different and it kind of felt that whatever reasons the two of them had for remaining together were really not very good.
Ali, as played by Shireen was an interesting character who initially seemed to be rather weak and downtrodden but, as with most mothers, there is that backbone of steel running through her that ensures that she may bend in the wind of life’s troubles but won’t be blown over. Darren’s portrayal of Rob was great in its awfulness. Seriously, I would be amazed if Rob’s mother liked him so why Ali stayed with him was a bit of a mystery to me. I have the feeling that if you were to pick up a dictionary and look up the word ‘selfish’ it would say “see Rob”. Really great portrayal from Darren Douglas there. Viss and Robert both made the most of their characters but I personally felt that they weren’t as fully drawn and by the end I didn’t really know that much about them than I had at the start.
The production is presented in very short scenes, almost as if designed for television. The problem I found with this approach is that I didn’t really have time to get to identify with the characters fully and so wasn’t really that invested in them. However, Director Juliet Knight makes every moment of the roughly eighty-minute running time work to get the story across. Naomi Kuyck-Cohen’s fairly plain set – surrounded by large unpainted canvasses – worked well with white boxes portraying everything from a run-down flat to an art gallery in hipster central.
Overall, I’m a bit unsure about Bitched. Whilst I really liked the story of Ali and her growth not only as a woman but as a person in her own right, and her interaction with Rob really worked well for me, I didn’t really bond with all the characters and my interest in them was really limited. However, having said that, Bitched is an interesting play which raises some fascinating questions about how relationships really work when so many things are fighting to be the most important in them.
Review by Terry Eastham
Sleepless and sexless. Seductions and success. Can Ali and Rob survive it all?
Ali is a new mum, loving wife and successful stylist. Two years after the birth of her son, things aren’t going to plan. She is stuck in a shabby local salon trying to make ends meet. Husband Rob is so intent on making it as an artist, he hardly notices. Their luck changes when glamorous Shoreditch gallery owners Suzanne and Nirjay decide to launch Rob’s career. But what are they really after?
A biting take on parenting, sex and power.
Rob – Darren Douglas
Suzanne – Viss Elliot Safavi
Ali – Shireen Farkhoy
Nirjay – Robert Mountford
Director Juliet Knight
Associate Director Sita Thomas
Designer Naomi Kuyck-Cohen
Lighting Designer Jai Morjaria
Sound Designer Rebecca Smith
25th October – Sat 11th November 2017