Friday, November 27, 2015


If you hurry up and book a ticket, you might get a chance to see one of the very best shows staged in the first half of the 15-16 Toronto theatre season.

BOMBAY BLACK is a love story set in a Mumbai slum, where desperate parents sell their children as private dancers to wealthy jaded clients.  "Darkness is a blank slate.  Draw on it what you will." BOMBAY BLACK tells a dark story, but both the cast and the production suffuse it with light.

Anosh Irani is both a novelist and a playwright.  The language of the play is dense and lyrical, the story layered and complex. It's a truly beautiful script, a powerful story told in heightened language.

Padma (Anusree Roy) is a single parent, who has fled an abusive marriage in rural India, and come to Bombay.  The marriage has left Padma a seething mass of rage and damage.

Padma sells her talented, unhappy daughter, Apsara as a private dancer.  The money the girl earns provides their livelihood. The bells around Apsara's ankles are both one of her enticements and the shackles of her imprisonment.

As played by Kawa Ada, Apsara is desire personified: a person everyone wants and no one can touch.  The parameters of the illuminated round stage where Apsara undulates nightly are both a protection (Padma applies an iron bar to the hands or head of anyone who dare touch her) and her prison. Apsara lives for the pleasure of others: wanted by all, and loved by none, not even her mother. Ada gives a luminous performance, allowing us to experience the damaged, untrusting child inside the seductive beauty. He also choreographed the show and the dancing greatly enhances the production.

One day, a blind man, Kamal (a wonderful Howard J. Davis) comes for a private dance.  He also comes to give Padma a message from her husband.  Her father wants to see Apsara one last time before he dies.  Kamal also claims that Apsara was his child bride, married to him when he was 10, and she was 3.  The first time he touched her, he was rendered blind.  He wants what was promised to him: love, the love that the celestial nymph gives to the lotus in the Indian myth.

Hinton initially chose an all male cast.  His decision to have two men play the lovers in the story works wonderfully.

I'm also very glad Hinton ended up with Anusree Roy. She lionizes the role of Padma, embracing her wit, while unflinchingly showing every venal cruel aspect of her character.  She truly earns our sympathy, as we see the suffering and neglect that made her  into the woman she has become. Roy's performance is a master-class in acting.

With the skillful deployment of a few well-used resources, Hinton creates theatre magic.

Lighting designer Jennifer Lennon does a spectacular job: creating clear spaces by defining and controlling the size of beams, and underlining the shifts in mood and tone in the story with shifts in colour.

BOMBAY BLACK is a must-see: gorgeous and compelling story telling from a creative team of impressive talent.

BOMBAY BLACK continues at the Factory Theatre Mainspace, 125 Bathurst Street, until December 6th, with performances from Tuesday through Saturday at 8:00 PM and pay what you can matinees on Sunday at 2:00 PM. or call: (416) 504 9971 

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