I do things with words, mainly English and Arabic
In an act of extreme decadence I seem to have taken almost two whole days off and spent them with this bloke I dimly recall being married to. One of the things we did during this unwonted period of leisure time was saw Snookered, the debut play by former Middlesbrough cabbie Ishy Din, currently being toured by the Tamasha Theatre Co.
This fast-paced, funny, bitter, thoughtful play centres on four young men who’ve grown up and gone to school together in an unspecified northern town. They have reached the age where their lives have diverged, and now they meet up once a year on the birthday of a dead friend. But as they down pints and shots and lay into one another’s pool skills, the growing differences between the friends are laid bare and some difficult – perhaps unbearable – truths are revealed.
The four figures may start off as familiar archetypes – the loudmouthed, puffa-jacket-wearing taxi driver who’s stayed in his hometown; the dishy guy with the nice jeans and Adidas satchel who’s followed a job and a white partner to London; the solemn latecomer who his friends suspect is ‘getting religious’ and the awkward, geeky one who still works in his dad’s shop and is miserably aware that he’s always been slightly despised by the rest of the gang. But behind each of the stereotypes are the complexities that make them into real people. Slang terms and references to themes such as arranged marriage, observance of Islamic food and drink rules and experiences of racism may situate the men’s lives within the British-Pakistani community, but other issues – jobs, parents, IVF, relationships, infidelity and the stifling atmosphere of small-town Britain – will resonate well beyond any one community.
Ishy Din’s writing and characterisation are outstanding for a first play, the casting is spot-on, the directing tight and the staging excellent. What more could you ask for? Snookered’s brief Edinburgh run is, sadly, over, but it is playing in Wolverhampton, London, Southampton and Oxford. Well worth seeing.