Play: An Indian Abroad
Playwright: Hari Ramakrishnan / Pariah Khan
Director: Eduardo Gama
Venue: The Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol
Review by Heather Marks
An Indian Abroad is a hilarious inversion of the colonial explorer adventure. This one man show by Pariah Khan, the alter ego of writer and performer Hari Ramakrishnan tells the story of Krishnan, a young man who is stifled by middle class India and desperate to see more of the world.
In this hour-long performance, we follow Krishnan as he takes a year out to seek spiritual fulfilment in Britain, visiting the exotic locales of Bradford, Birmingham and Bristol, and falls in love with a native.
With nothing more than a calendar, a few chairs and a suitcase, Pariah Khan holds his own in An Indian Abroad, making the audience laugh from the get go. He has excellent comic timing and lands each joke, of which there are many. Krishnan may be a wide-eyed adventurer but underneath that intrepid explorer persona is a flaneur with a critical gaze.
Racism of varying degrees – casual racism, ‘unconscious bias’ and EDL-level bigotry – are fodder in Khan’s satire. At one point there is a tense face-off between Krishnan and an EDL member, but even this is diffused and leads into an interesting consideration of identity. An Indian Abroad sustains a light examination of race and identity in Britain within a constant stream of jokes, much to Khan’s credit.
There are moments which are at odds with the comedic strength of Khan’s show: the singing of English pop songs which are indistinct mumbles, and the prolonged moving of chairs for some scenes seem unnecessary.
And there’s the ending. It is way too abrupt and doesn’t seem like the end of a play but an act break. However, for a one hour comedy performance, Khan doesn’t disappoint and successfully flips the trope of the colonial explorer to deliver a barrel of laughs with pointed barbs.
An Indian Abroad is next showing in Newcastle at Northern Stage Saturday 20 July.