Review: Circus ★★★★
Marble Sinew present social comedy Circus – part of the annual Season of Bangla Drama Festival celebrating Bangladeshi heritage in Tower Hamlets and beyond!
Circus | Pinter Studio, QMUL | 9-12 November 2022
We’re huge fans of the annual Season of Bangla Drama, through which Tower Hamlets aims to celebrate its Bangladeshi heritage. Our first taste this year was Marble Sinew’s production of writer/director Kayser A. Foyz’s ‘Circus’ in QMUL’s Harold Pinter Theatre.
A talented and enthusiastic cast – including Foyz himself – bring to life a cast of colourful characters engaged in rehearsals for a new play set to save – or bring the curtain down – on the small theatre run by playwright Keira (Soni Bhalla). Cohen (Noor Dillan-Night) is the cocksure leading man who might just make the effort to learn his lines this time around; Marisa (Claudia Cara) is the kook, emitting vocal warm-up squeals and squeaks; Bob (Will Middleton) is the shy, retiring type who can knock a monologue out of the park; and Erika (Telka Wilson) is the Gen-Z vlogger who’s along for the ride for the Insta-likes.
Keira has received the news that her theatre – established by her father – is to be shut down for redevelopment. There’s time for one last show, which could well stave off the bulldozers – if only she can coerce her motley cast into giving their very best to the production.
Meanwhile, Robert Charles’ Samuel is keen to put up the financial backing for Keira’s big last shot – but is he emotionally invested in the theatre and the show, or is he just suffering from white saviour syndrome?
Kayser A. Foyz’s script is warm and witty, and brave enough to venture into out-and-out satire in the second half, as Keira’s show (within the show) upturns the sadly commonplace story of white supremacy and Western exceptionalism.
And then, a twist: the audience gets to choose how the fictional audience of Keira’s show would respond to her work. At this point, the finale branches into one of two directions – perhaps a reminder that, for all our best efforts, some outcomes might just as well come down to the toss of a coin.
Queen Mary’s small Harold Pinter Theatre is an intimate setting for this play, yet in the early stages some of the cast still seem a little overawed by the black-box staging. Voices embolden, however, as the piece picks up speed and momentum – and, once the play-within-a-play commences, there’s a confidence to Circus which feels well-earned.
Check out the rest of the programme for the 2022 Season of Bangla Drama Festival.
I am Joint Editor at To Do List. I like: nice pubs, film marathons, not doing real marathons, bad comedy, plays/musicals with shorter second halves, and the Oxford comma.