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Kent's Balti Celtic
Rupert White on 'The Incredible Balti Celtic Carpet Ride' by Alan M. Kent.
"Today, after more than a century of
electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system in a
global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is
Fizz, one of the central characters in Kent's lively play, is an aspiring beatnik musician living in Newquay, and in an early scene we see him visiting the celebrated Folk Cottage folk club in nearby Mitchell with his girlfriend Bindu. Bindu is the attractive teenage daughter of Sandeep, an Indian immigrant and proud owner of the first Balti house in Cornwall. His restaurant, with its large sculpture of Ganesh, is the central location in the play, and the fact of its existence the premise for subtle, and not so subtle, discussions about culture and identity.
Here Alan Kent's voice as a
hybridising postmodern playwright comes through strongly, with
references to D.H. Lawrence and Rabindranath Tagore mixed up with
light-hearted nods towards 70s sitcoms like 'Mind Your Language'. It's
novel and refreshing to see these themes revisited in the context of
twentieth century Cornwall and familiar racial stereotypes are given a
few surprising, and heart-warming, twists. Cornwall is not usually
thought of as a place of cultural diversity, and it can be argued that,
as a consequence, Cornish identity has become entrenched and stultified,
and even more prone to caricature than Indian. Monotonously fixed in 'Poldark-time',
with its tin-mines and period costumes, more nuanced and
diverse representations that situate Cornwall in a bigger, post-modern
'global village' are very welcome, and long overdue.
This merest hint of difference and alienation is shortlived, and the play ends with the seemingly inevitable, though tongue-in-cheek, expression of a harmonious multicultural Cornwall: Sandeep announces his intention to make the best curry pasty in Western Europe.
Directed by Iga Drzymkowska, and featuring Alan Suri, Kara-Dee Rai, Michael Tonkin-Jones, Max Webb and Bryher Flanders, 'The Incredible Balti Celtic Carpet Ride' tours Cornwall until the end of April.