My Dad's Corner Shop

Ray Grewal
Derby Playhouse

When the Playhouse announced their spring/summer season would include this relatively new comedy - it won Ray Grewal the Meyer-Whitworth Writing Award in 2001 - I was eagerly looking forward to seeing the first main-stage production of the play. And when a colleague told me he'd read the script which jumped off the page, my expectation levels surged even higher.

But two-and-a-half hours later I was left with feelings of disappointment and deflation at creative producer Stephen Edwards' directorial debut in Derby.

The show starts promisingly enough, Kit Lane and David Phillips' video design of a city skyline looking like a set from a Bollywood film.

The Playhouse's former artistic director Mark Clements often praised the creative team at Derby for being among the best in the country and again they delivered the goods.

Designer Andy Miller has come up with what initially appears to be a purely functional set, the shop's shelves stocked sparingly and labels from various products splashed around the walls. Yet the longer the play goes on, the more magical the special effects become, aided in no small way by Alexandra Stafford's spectacular lighting.

However, a comedy stands or falls by the audience's reaction and how much they laugh. On the night I attended, there were long silences from the auditorium. Although there was a major improvement after the interval, the first two acts dragged. There was a lack of pace, sparkle and timing. It's debatable whether that was down to Edwards or his largely inexperienced cast.

My Dad's Corner Shop traces the relationship between two Asian brothers who are minding the store while their father is in India. Rajesh (Damian Asher) is the more level-headed, content to follow in his father's footsteps, while Kumar (Conor Alexander) is a fashion graduate who has ambition without the wisdom to fulfil it.

On several occasions Kumar complained to his brother about not being able to find his focus. Unfortunately that seems to be Alexander's problem. He appears comfortable and enthusiastic in his biggest professional part so far but he tries too hard. It's a contrived performance and some of his comic lines are lost in his delivery.

Asher is competent enough but the pair seem an unlikely combination for brothers as there is virtually no chemistry between them.

Liz Jadav adds glamour as the young woman while Josephine Welcome brings experience and depth to the role of the old woman.

Grewal's script is fresh, perky and cleverly constructed. There is a certain amount of toilet humour but the play never crosses the line into absurdity, despite delving into the realm of angels and abductions by aliens.

In these days when diversity plays such a big part in society, it's good to see Asian theatre given a major run in a main house. The only pity is that this offering produced fewer laughs than Grewal must have intended.

My Dad's Corner Shop runs until 12th April

Reviewer: Steve Orme

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