Calcutta Kosher

Shelley Silas
Southwark Playhouse
(2004)

The concept underlying Calcutta Kosher is great. Jamila Massey plays the matriarchal Molly, who symbolises the ancient Jewish culture of Calcutta which is dying.

Her two daughters return from England and America and attempt to wrest her from her home, beautifully designed by Magdalen Rubalcava; and her traditions. The pair have a rude awakening as they are told that the servant girl, Maki is their younger half sister.

This leaves scope for light comedy, many of the funniest lines coming from Shelley King's wise cracking LA-based Sylvie at the expense of her naive English sister played by Harvey Virdi.

There is also a degree of pathos, as Seema Bowri's alternately meek and fiery but always devoted Maki represents truth and future in the face of the symbolic Diaspora. This is quite an effort with the kind of sisters familiar to Cinderella or Lear's Cordelia.

While the idea is excellent, the delivery tends towards the anodyne and the returning sisters in particular, are too one-dimensional. This is a real pity as Calcutta Kosher has much promise. With good performances from Jamila Massey and Seema Bowri, it is so close to proving a really strong successor to Miss Silas' last play, Falling, which did so well at the Bush, a year ago.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher