The Brady Arts Centre, Whitechapel
BSK London’s production for the Season of Bangla Drama 2017 was a hilarious satiric play written by journalist Bulbul Hasan and directed by Syeda Saima Ahmed. The Cafe was the opening show of the SOBD organised by The London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The drama addressed a number of contemporary issues within our British-Bangladeshi community through humour and wit. While the characters portrayed in the play have many similarities with people from within our community, the connection with reality is often broken though dance and music throughout the play. The jump from conscious to unconscious, from self to other, was beautifully put together to showcase how individuals suffer from indecisive and paradoxical social demands.
3rd & 4th November, 2017
Despite this serious storyline, the writer and the director produced a light hearted play filled with humour which left the audience laughing throughout and after the play. Along with politics, there was romance, comedy, tragedy, music, dance and what not! Indeed the Cafe offered at least something to suite the taste buds of all its audiences. Hence why it was not surprising to know that the tickets for the opening show was all sold out and the play received high volume of positive remarks.
This production was supported by ION TV and Tower Hamlets Community Housing
Moreover, through the character of Laila (a non-Bengali café waitress), the writer also brought out the issue of objectifying women and how it is done by the same group of hypocrite conservative men who at the same time blames women for instigating rape. Many famous political scientists claimed that war is inevitable in human nature and this idea perhaps played an influential role in Bulbul Hasan’s writing where individual characters are shown in a constant war with one another and within themselves.
The cafe is a Bishwo Shahitto Kendro (BSK) production and the cast included Shamim Azad, Shoayeeb Chamak, Zahurul Islam Russell, Himu M Hossain, Arfuman Chowdhury, Sadeq Ahmed Chowdhury, Sharmin Jannat Bhutto, Ajanta Deb Roy, Anindita Tahsin, Shah Wahiduzzaman, Farah Naz, Armanul Haq and Emiko Jane Ishii, Lights design Julian Deering from Queen Mary University, Dramaturge Dr. Canen Saleh, Set design by Sanjida Gafur and Syeda Saima Ahmed, Digital presentation by Ibrahim Aditya, Promotion and publication by SM Zakir Hussain and Imran Khan, Backstage support by Farhana Alam Sony and front house management by Samaha Ahmed, Feroz Ahmed Bipul and Fahmida Begum
All the characters were to an extent trapped under the rubbles of social construction. For instance, despite having good potential for a political career, at the end the character named Helen gives up to the institution of marriage. It would be an underestimation to call Cafe a play only based on Bangladeshi politics or society, as it also very strongly linked and addresses issues in Britain such as Brexit, Westminster terror attack, benefit cuts and more.
It would be utterly wrong however to assert that the play was pessimistic in nature. In actual fact, the writer maintained a balance between positive and negative or we can say he shred light to the steps the Bengali community could take in order to have a bright fruitful future in Britain. The play had some solid characters like successful British Bengali banker, a strong feminist/social activist, who represented the positives of our community and indicated to an optimistic future.