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Behzti (dishonour) by Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti - reviewed
13th December, 2004

If you're looking for some witty and thought provoking drama then Behzti is definitely for you. Gurpreet's new play is set in a Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) and explores a number of themes with a variety of interesting characters.

Min, who is played exceptionally well by Yasmin Wilde (pictured) is a free, fun loving thirty something who doesn't give marriage a second thought. Her mother Balbir (Shelly King) depends on Min for almost everything - she can't stand the thought of her aging, overweight daughter being left on the shelf. The community seems to have turned its back on them after Balbir's husband died. Now a special occasion beckons Balbir to attend for the Gurdwara, not only to celebrate the Guru's birthday but to make her presence known once again.

Little did Min know that her scheming foul-mouthed mother is planning to make enquiries to find her a suitable boy for marriage. When they arrive at the Gurdwara, with Elvis - their black home-helper, all sorts of deep and ugly secrets are unleashed giving the audience something to really think about.

In Behzti, you should expect to see the unexpected. How often do you see a Sikh priest singing along to a Bob Marley song, and a Gurdwara housing an ex drug addict for a drug rehabilitation programme?

Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti has not shied away from exploring topical subjects such as homosexuality, corruption, social status and acceptance, suppression, drugs, domestic violence, rape, murder, mixed race relationships and paedophilia. I know what you're thinking - that's a lot to tackle in one play? It must be said that some areas merely scratched the surface and perhaps it covered too much in too little time. Nevertheless these are important subjects for a debate/discussion in the real world.

Behzti examines complex relationships between people in society. It also illustrates the difficulties and sacrifices people make when looking after their elders and the loss of dignity old people experience when suffering with embarrassing illnesses.

At times, I wondered who this play was aimed at and whom it would appeal to? But from looking around at a full, diverse audience and judging by their reactions it clearly had comedy value for both eastern and western audiences.

The set worked very well with the story, encompassing a huge exhibit of the Sikh word for God (in orange), displays of stainless steel kitchen utensils and shoe racks typically found within a Sikh temple. Lighting was good, and backing sounds were that Sikh prayers and hymns.

All in all the cast were a winning combination, although Madhav's Sharma, who played the head of the temple, gave a dry and unconvincing performance. The female performers were much stronger than their male counterparts. Everyone clearly warmed to Yasmin and found her equally as entertaining as Pooja Kumar and Harvey Virdi who were a hilarious duo and definitely mastered Punjabi female mannerisms and humour.

Behzti (Dishonour) is now at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre (9th Dec - 30th Dec)
Written by Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Directed by Janet Steel

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