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Rafta Rafta at Bolton Octagon

Published by: Caroline May on 16th May 2010 | View all blogs by Caroline May

If you’ve ever seen an old black-and-white film called The Family Way starring John and Hayley Mills then the plot of Rafta Rafta will seem very familiar.  Bill Naughton, Bolton’s genius loci, based the script on his own play All In Good Time, and Salford writer Ayub Khan Din (East is East) has brilliantly adapted and updated it to a contemporary, though still northern, setting.

The tale of a newly-wed couple whose attempts at marital consummation are constantly thwarted by their overbearing though well-meaning parents might appear to have little resonance in modern mainstream British culture.  But tweak the setting slightly - such as basing the story in the Orthodox Jewish community, like the Lowry’s recent Cling To Me Like Ivy - or in an Indian family, as here - and suddenly the sexual naïvety and innocence make sense.

There are strong domestic themes based around a domineering father who bullies his studious son and a young wife whose close bond with her daddy is resented by her mother.  Director Iqbal Khan elicits powerful performances from his cast when required and really pushes the boundaries of the drama. 

However the production never forgets that this is an outstandingly funny play, even occasionally veering towards farce.  Simon Nagra as the domestic tyrant Mr Dutt keeps the undercurrent of violence at a nice simmer without losing the comedy in his character.  Harvey Virdi as his ever-aggravated wife is radiant in the face of adversity, even accomplishing the surely impossible task of being a kind and loving mother-in-law.  Darren Kuppan and Bhavna Limbachia are sweet and touching as the newly marrieds and get the audience rooting for them wholeheartedly.  And there’s some lovely work in the smaller roles, notably Tony Hasnath as the groom’s cheeky kid brother and Kaleem Janjua as the bride’s doting and over-protective father.

Designer Lis Evans uses a well-compartmentalised stage to create the floorplan of the Dutt’s home for this in-the-round staging, which can be seen in Newcastle-under-Lyme’s New Vic Theatre straight after the Octagon run. 

A strong ensemble and great script make this an incredibly entertaining evening at the theatre.


Rafta Rafta is on at Bolton Octagon until Saturday 5 June 2010

Tickets: from £9.00

Eves: Mon-Sat @ 7.30

Matinees: Sat 22 & Wed 26 May @ 2pm



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