Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Review of Counting Stars by Atiha Sen Gupta - Stratford East

Atiha Sen Gupta’s play Counting Stars takes n oan original setting to address a number of societal issues.

The focus is the work setting and romantic relationship between two migrant lavatory attendants Abiodun  (Lanre Malaolu) and Sophie (Estella Daniels).

Abiodun does not like the job and brings out the elements of exploitation, racism and bullying by his manager. Sophie on the other hand likes the job, with the opportunity it offers to meet different people and further herself. The uniting theme is the burgeoning romance between the two conducted through the toilet wall.

The dialogue is strong, with a good line of humour illuminating an overall narrative about the exploitation of migrant labour.

Again Sen Gupta hits on contemporary issues, focusing on ethnic minority groups who are so often stereotyped or quite simply ignored by the mainstream. She manages to bring a reality to the drama about much of the injustice that is going on, whilst not getting bogged down. The rattling humour helps lighten the atmosphere.

Sen Gupta is cutting out a definite genre for herself with this play (first performed last year) following on State Red (2014) and the debut piece What Fatima Did (2009). She brings a cutting edge to contemporary  issues of social injustice.

It is important though that she retain that strong sense of authenticity that under writes her subjects and does not succumb to the tendency of some working in this field to take the stance of the middle class observer looking inward. Thankfully, there is little sign of this happening thus far, long may it continue.

*Counting Stars is on at Theatre Royal, Stratford East until 17 September  

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