Why Not Theatre presents fantastic joy-filled piece A Brimful of Asha at Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre
Why Not Theatre’s A Brimful of Asha, playing at Tarragon Theatre, is a joyful peek into the inner workings of one family. We see conflict, we see frustration, we see pain, but most of all, we see love.
There’s so much this piece could be “about” with so many different themes, and like any piece of art everyone connects in a different way, but what I walked away with was an overwhelming sense of love and laughter.
We’re given some key information off the top:
- Everything in the piece is true
- Asha (the mother) is not an actor
- We will be somehow participating in a dialogue as each person tells their own truth of the situation
This isn’t a ‘traditional’ play, a story acted out before the audience. It is a story told to the audience. While there is none of the intimidating singling-out-someone-in-the-audience type of audience participation, there is a comfort with the people on stage, with the honesty of their story, which makes the audience react in ways you don’t get with other pieces of theatre.
The audience reactions, like the exclamation of “uh oh!” after the revelation of a particularly suspicious circumstance, are welcomed by the pair on stage. Ravi and Asha each calling out the support for their side of the story as it emerges.
There are many little touches that make me feel more like a guest than an audience member. The normal dark anonymity of the audience is lifted. With enough light to see people next to me and beside me they become people with me, not people near me.
There is also the offering of food as the audience enters, since we’re their guests, Asha and Ravi offer us samosas, and who can resist a good samosa? Asha also asks us to pretend we’re at her house, and while there’s no mistaking this theatre for someone’s home, the invitation itself changes the tenor of the ‘in the theatre’ experience.
At its core, this is a deeply personal autobiographical story, and an exploration of a relationship between a mother and son. The staging is reasonably basic, which is perfect for the piece. It doesn’t feel like “watching a play” and that’s part of what makes it so special.
I feel like if there was more elaborate staging then it would pull away from the core of the piece. I would stop feeling like I was a guest, and more like I was an audience member.
In case you’re wondering about my show-partner’s thoughts, well, actually, technically I was the show partner tonight, one of my writers (who happens to also be my mum) was kind enough to have me along as her plus one. Unfortunately she has a terrible cough and, despite much medication, had to leave in the middle of the piece so that she wouldn’t disturb everyone else.
What she saw she really loved. She was incredibly sad to have had to leave. She told me she plans to go back to see the piece as soon as she kicks this cold/cough to the curb. She loves autobiographical pieces and really appreciated the chance to see one that involved two players, since it’s a genre heavily dominated by one-person shows.
It was also her first introduction to Ravi Jain and she’s now dying to see more of him. He’s a fantastic talent who is all over the place these days, so that shouldn’t be hard to accomplish. We both agreed that we loved Asha, and while she claims not to be an actor, she’s certainly a delight to watch.
If you’re looking for a good dose of laughter and love, despite some disagreement and frustration, then I can’t recommend this enough. Go soon though, last time it was here it was sold out, and I doubt it will be different this time around. It’s a fantastic joy-filled piece.
- A Brimful of Asha plays until December 16, 2012 at Tarragon Theatre’s Extra Space (30 Bridgeman Ave)
- Showtimes Tuesday-Saturday at 8pm; Saturday at 2:30pm & 8pm; Sunday only matinees at 2:30pm
- Ticket prices range from $27-$53 (Discounts for students, seniors and groups), $13 Rush Tickets available for Sunday matinees (at the door – on sale at 1pm), PWYC 2:30 matinee on Sat Dec 15
- Tickets can be purchased through the box office at 416.531.1827 or online
Photo of Ravi Jain and Asha Jain by Erin Brubacher