When the lights come up on a simple wooden bench in the Factory Theatre, Red Betty’s production of Rukmini’s Gold, as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival, promised to show us a story about “where we come from and where we are going”. In the hour and a half after that, the story was told with a delicacy and charm that kept me leaning forward in my seat.
The piece starts off with the matriarch of a large Indian family, Rukmini (played by Dia Frid), waiting for a train. After her opening monologue, in which Frid proves her knack for both comedy and sincerity, the show breaks into scenes from her family’s life. These range from before her death to years after, taking place anywhere from Uganda to Canada.
I find with shows like Rukmini’s Gold, where the action is based in loosely connected scenes rather than in a traditional narrative, it can be hard to keep the attention of an audience throughout. Though I did find at times it was hard to connect the dots of how the characters were related, the individual performances were so strong that I was rarely distracted from them by any confusion in that regard.
Amidst these well-crafted scenes, the only thing that pulled me out once or twice was a slight tendency for the characters to become more like caricatures than real people. The lines would feel a bit too light or self-referential and they would lose their honesty for just a moment. I found this especially in a scene with two young boys at a train station, which stood out as being less cohesive, especially in a show where every other scene seemed so relevant.
Stand out performances were given by Frid as well as Ellora Patnaik, who masterfully handled the complicated stories while keeping their characters both charming and poignant.
Supporting these performances was a gorgeous script, by Radha S. Menon, that shifted gracefully between hilarity and heartbreak. Every character Menon has written is given a chance to prove themselves beautifully complex as they explore their connection to their family and their culture, their hopes and their regrets.
In the end, the show explored a myriad of themes surrounding this expanding family, including approval, separation, first meetings and final farewells, in a way that was accessible and wonderfully challenging. It is a witty and honest commentary on the way our cultures meet and change, and how family pushes us apart but ties us together.
- Rukmini’s Gold is playing until July 12at the Factory Theatre Mainspace. (125 Bathurst Street)
- Tickets are $12 in advance, $10 at the door. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by phone (416-966-1062), from the festival box office down Honest Ed’s Alley (581 Bloor West), or from the venue box office starting one hour before the performance. Venue sales are cash-only.
- Be advised that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and latecomers are never admitted. Set your watch to CBC time, and arrive a few minutes early to avoid disappointment.
- July 01 at 08:15 PM
- July 04 at 05:15 PM
- July 06 at 10:15 PM
- July 07 at 06:30 PM
- July 08 at 05:15 PM
- July 10 at 12:00 PM
- July 12 at 07:00 PM
Photo featuring Maya Huliyappa-Menon and Dia Frid, taken by Radha S. Menon.