Agam Darshi and Munish Sharma in Bombay Black. Photo by Zahida Rahemtulla.
Agam Darshi and Munish Sharma in Bombay Black. Photo by Zahida Rahemtulla.

Bombay Black is one of those rare full-length ensemble pieces at the Fringe. While a refreshing change to the majority of plays on offer at the Vancouver Fringe Festival, it never hits you in the gut like it should.

Bombay Black tells the story of Apsara, who lives with her mother in modern Bombay, making money by selling erotic dances. The arrival of a blind man for an appointment begins to unravel long-held family secrets.

While Canadian playwright Anosh Irani layers the mystery of the blind man, the ultimate reveal is less than satisfying. Without wanting to give too much away, it was surprising how little impact there was to the darkest revelation. Given the subject matter it is tough to reconcile, especially given this cast’s performances.

Nimet Kanji’s burn as Apsara’s mother is beautiful to watch in its all its cruel glory. A balance of madness, sadness, sarcasm and misguided hate, the black humour in Irani’s script is her plaything. The realistic scenes between Apsara (Agam Darshi) and the blind Kamal (Munish Sharma) are at times electrifying.

Part of the problem is in Irani’s use of magic realism which, rather than helping to elevate the story, essentially pulls us away from the central narrative. Under Rohit Chokhani’s direction these moments were jarring at times, making it difficult to find the focus when returning to the story.

3 Out of 5 Stars

Bombay Black continues at the Vancity Culture Lab at The Cultch (1895 Venables St, Vancouver) until September 16, as part of the Vancouver Fringe Festival. Visit http://vancouverfringe.com for tickets and information.