The Fortune Club
Leicester Haymarket Theatre in association with the Tricycle
The theory sounds so good. A kind of updated Lavender Hill Mob or even The Italian Job set amongst the Asian community in the East End should be great fun. Throw in the crime of the moment, identity theft, and how can you go wrong?
Unfortunately, while the conception had it all, the increasingly unlikely plotting of The Fortune Club is not the play's only problem.
A set of unfulfilled thirtysomething Asians are holed up at Gilly's (Rez Kempton) dad's tatty pub in Forest Hill one New Year's Eve. Over drinks and a strong spliff, they come up with an unlikely plan to get wealthy on the backs of the rich and famous.
Led by a pair of contrasting sisters, actress-bimbo Renu (Paven Virk) and moralising brains Priya (Natalia Campbell) together with Gilly and petty crook Zaq (Alex Caan), they vote their way into crime.
Since Simmy (Anushka Dahssi) works for American Express as an account manager, she has personal details for a list that is second to none. The theory is that by impersonating the likes of Richard Branson, Madonna, Robbie Williams, David Beckham and even our esteemed Prime Minister, the team find that it is possible to make purchases on these celebrities' credit cards that will not be noticed.
In no time, the seven talk themselves into the identity fraud business and the goodies start flowing in. Quite why shops should be happy to send things out to Asian-sounding Cilla Blacks and black East End Sir Sean Connerys is explained only by gullibility.
Eventually, this unlikely middle-class team decide that they have probably had enough and will go for one final sting, pretending to be the Prince of Brunei.
By then, personal relationships are fraught to say the least, with more than one romance on the rocks. The stresses brought on by a £10 million diamond heist can easily be imagined.
With tragedy and a twist in the tail, Dolly Dinghra brings her version of EastEnders to a bittersweet ending.
Regrettably, as the plotting becomes increasingly unlikely (it is unbelievable that Amex and the police took so long to catch on), the playwright's use of cliché and lack of an ear for dialogue become ever more apparent. The acting is rarely distinguished and therefore the best moments are when, sometimes for no good reason, the cast begin to dance to a bouncy Bhangra beat.
Strangest of all, this bizarre story is apparently inspired by a true crime. Presumably Miss Dinghra became aware of it because the criminals got things wrong and ended up in jail.
This review originally appeared on Theatreworld in a slightly different version
Reviewer: Philip Fisher