There or Here

Jennifer Maisel
Special Relationship Production in association with Anita Creed Productions and Park Theatre
Park Theatre

Chris Nayak & Lucy Fenton Credit: Ikin Yum
Chris Nayak, Lucy Fenton, Manish Gandhi & Rakhee Thakrar Credit: Ikin Yum
Lucy Fenton & Rakhee Thakrar Credit: Ikin Yum

We live in a globalised world where social media, migration and corporate business encourage surprising connections between people.

Jennifer Maisel’s play There or Here, set in and around the year 2006, takes an optimistic view of this as the character Robyn (Lucy Fenton) navigates difficulties in her relationships while seeking to have a child by a surrogate mother.

With her Asian American partner Ajay (Chris Nayak), she travels to India where she meets Neera (Rakhee Thakrar) whom a clinic has chosen as a suitable surrogate.

Both are restless and seem unable to speak easily about their feelings to each other. Instead, they find themselves sharing intimate thoughts with workers answering the phone to them from call centres.

Robyn regularly calls a computer support worker. Ajay begins to open up to a fast food call worker and then to a trainee telephone sex worker.

Even Robyn’s mother (Ursula Mohan) finds new technology nudging her into a relationship with a much younger boyfriend (Manish Gandhi) who sold her a new phone and computer.

The dialogue is clear, imaginative and usually amusing. Robyn is prone to speaking short reflective monologues which are well written and at times quite lyrical.

The cast give confident performances with Lucy Fenton particularly effective as Robyn.

However, the play is so determinedly warm-hearted that it makes the plot seem at times improbable. There was the matter of the laid-back call centre workers who seemed such natural therapists and, although Ajay’s solution to the sudden disappearance of Neera provides a happy sentimental resolution, it ignores a lot of moral and logistic problems.

That points to perhaps the play's main weakness. It skates too easily over a multitude of issues. Only in passing do we hear that Ajay is employed to slash the costs and jobs in workplaces, no doubt so they can be outsourced to Third World countries.

The play’s point of view is Robyn and America. She is compassionate and the Asian characters, from call centre workers to the woman who is renting her womb, are treated sensitively but superficially.

This is an entertaining play but it can feel like a slightly romantic and, in its sentimental ending, complacent view of India’s relationship to the West.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna