A brief review of a brief play. It can’t be easy for Adam (Akshay Nugent), nicknamed ‘OJ’ for ‘Orange Juice’ (hence the show’s title), such is his preference for non-alcoholic drinks when out with work colleagues. In a juxtaposition of Pakistani and British norms and values, Miriam, a traditionalist mother, doesn’t take too kindly to expressions of personal freedom by her sons Adam and Adil. In the former, a preference not to go down the arranged marriage route leaves her disappointed, but the sexual orientation of the latter is simply beyond the pale. This isn’t exactly Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. Added to this, Adam’s best friend Ravi is dealing with his own personal issues.
A one-act, one-hour, one-man show, Orange Juice is pacey and intense, taking the audience through a journey in which little is left to the imagination in highly vivid descriptions of a broad range of plausibly real-life scenes. These include a late-night London Underground journey on a train carriage shared with partygoers who have had too much to drink and are ‘singing’ popular tunes on their way home (something which I personally encountered the night before seeing this show), and a “prospective marriage meet up session” (and absolutely, positively, utterly not a ‘date’, if anything because it is in a coffee shop) with a young lady called Halima.
The awkwardness of that first meeting is captured brilliantly. Adam tries to pick his words carefully, with varying degrees of success. Elsewhere, the attitudes and approach of an infantile manager, both in the office and in the pub, leaves Adam reflecting that not much has changed, at least as far as the taunting and stereotyping is concerned, since his schooldays, the only notable difference being the cost of alcoholic beverages passed between people.
It’s ‘black box’ staging, with the only props being a chair and, for going outside, a nice jacket. This is a tour de force performance, really, depicting various characters so convincingly. My usual gripe with one-person performances – that the audience doesn’t hear versions of events from perspectives other than the narrator’s – is dispensed with: Adam makes a determined effort to see things from different viewpoints.
The vast majority of music, beautiful and atmospheric as it is, is performed live and, refreshingly, does not play over anything said, allowing Adam’s thoughts, spoken out loud, to be heard at their most raw, and thus their most human. The sense of frustration is palpable as Adam grapples with realising his ambitions, both personal and professional. Ending on a suitably optimistic note, this humorous and absorbing play provides some intricate insights into the problems and imponderables faced by the millennial generation.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Orange Juice – written by Karim Khan.
Cast: Adam – Akshay Nugent
Directed by Dale Monie.
Flautist and drummer: Praveen Prathapan.
Recorded qawwali: Krishnaprasad KV
2nd Dec 2017
StageSpace – Pleasance London