Approaching Empty review: Kiln Theatre, Kilburn
PUBLISHED: 12:05 18 January 2019
© Copyright Helen Murray 2019
Ishy Din’s play set in a northern cab office is a welcome insight into Margaret Thatcher’s effect on immigrant workers but a lost opportunity
The tribulations of middle-aged Pakistani men are the subject of ex-taxi driver Ishy Din’s resolutely naturalistic drama.
It’s April 2013, former Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is dead, and the legacy of her economic policies are still playing out in a Teeside cab office.
Owner Raf and his best friend Mansha came to the UK as teenagers to work in the city’s steel factories. With their redundancy money, Raf bought the cab firm – got a big house and sent his kids to private school, while Mansha paid off his mortgage and has doggedly remained decent and hard-working, while managing Raf’s cab firm.
Regretful that he didn’t take a bigger risk for bigger gain, Mansha jumps too fast at the chance to buy the firm – and Raf’s warnings that business is ruthless ‘dog eat dog’ fall on deaf ears.
That the sale will go wrong is as heavily flagged as one of Del Boy’s dodgy deals, and The Iron Lady’s role in destroying their working class way of life is rather heavy-handedly introduced via snippets of TV news.
And if a character has a persistent wracking cough it’s never going to end well.
But despite a rather static first half, Din’s ear for authentic dialogue carries the piece to a violent conclusion which sees a far more brutal brand of economics – the kind that springs from a lack of opportunity and yawning gap between haves and have nots – take over.
Director Pooja Ghai conjures the camaraderie and tedium of a late night workplace where an assortment of crumpled folk have washed up.
Rina Fatania is hilarious and heartbreaking as the brutalised, sweary but hopeful Sameena going straight after a spell in prison .
Kammy Darweish lends a bruised, weary dignity to the unworldly Mansha, and Nicholas Parasad is moving as the decent but ultimately pragmatic Sully.
While Karan Gill as Raf’s son Shazad decries his father’s greed and “man up” philosphy – preferring the arts to account ledgers.
While offering welcome insight into the immigrant experience, this feels like a lost opportunity for a more nuanced dive into masculine roles -and their effect on the women in this community.