– by Rose Maurice
Wednesday–Thursday March 19
I am going to begin this piece by associating Zak and Reefa’s Bollywood Funeral with an adjective not commonly associated with funerals – enjoyment. Writer Tasnim Hossain and directors Casey Elder and Chris Brain achieved this not only once but twice. The play was split into two parts, each performed on separate nights, in a different and unconventional setting.
The venues for both funerals complied with Dangerous Territory, a challenge that asked various YAH artists to pick strange places in the city and create shows in and around them. The two locations, Landspeed Records and the office hallway of the Citizens Advice Bureau on Barry Drive, added to the overall atmosphere of the performance and went beyond what could have been just a simple quirk of the production. This is because they reflected the interests of both characters; Zak (delightful Vivek Sharma) – who has dropped out of his engineering degree to pursue a career in music – performed on Wednesday night at Landspeed Records, the setting adeptly reflecting his passion and drive for music. On the next night, the funeral for Reefa, played by Hossain, was held in the office hallway of the Citizen Advice Bureau on Barry Drive and reflected her interest in law and community advocacy. While these unconventional settings did limited audience numbers and comfort, they had an overall positive impact.
The two performances were compelling as standalone pieces. Zak’s rap “My name is Zak and I’m on the next level, something, something, something to the devil” and Reefa’s association of her Aunt’s obsession with marriage to social media platforms like Facebook and Tinder provided both performances with comedy that didn’t rely on having seen the other half.
But the overlap between Zak and Reefa’s perspectives was one of the play’s strongest features. From Reefa’s monologue referencing her catching Zak mid-rap to her part in the confrontation between Zak and his parents, the overlap powerfully highlighted how various people come to and react to situations differently.
Similarly, Reefa’s funeral concluded the two pieces. The ending left by Zak’s funeral remained inconclusive. His action of purchasing a CD and walking out of the establishment left the audience questioning what he would do next and whether or not he was serious about no longer pursuing music. It was the conclusion to Reefa’s story that removed the ambiguity left by Zak’s.
Zak and Reefa’s Bollywood Funeral is a compelling performance that looks into the common tension between individual ambitions and family pressures, using humour and insight in a way which truly encompasses the You Are Here spirit.
(Photo credit: Adam Thomas)
Rose Maurice has a happy life surrounded by words. As a recent graduate from the ANU with a degree in Literature and History, she now works in a bookshop. Rose has an amateur background in performance poetry and has a tendency to write poems and short story ideas on the back of receipts and in the covers of novels she is reading. She loves to explore, dance, dream and midnight bike rides.