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Farcical times with ‘A Small Family Business’

Farcical times with ‘A Small Family Business’

British playwright Alan Ayckbourn’s award-winning play, “A Small Family Business” was adapted by Akarsh Khurana last year and staged at the National Centre for Performing Arts Tata Theatre. Although the play was expected to open pre-pandemic at the Experimental Theatre, it was first hampered by the pandemic and later, because of the restrictions on seating.

The play had six shows which went housefull but the creators felt that they were not done with it yet. In its second run, this time at the Experimental Theatre at NCPA, the script has been tweaked with “appropriate” changes so that the themes of the play stand out loud and clear. Directed by Adhaar Khurana, “A Small Family Business” revolves around Samson Sequeira—a man of principle in a corrupt world. Samson is a mild-mannered Goan Christian who is married into a boisterous Punjabi business family in Delhi. After two daughters and many years of loyalty to his wife, Samson’s father-in-law decides to entrust the family business to him.

Moments after he takes on the mantle, Samson is approached by a private investigator, Bharti Panchal, who is armed with some compromising information. Thus begins Samson’s nightmare. There is dishonesty, corruption and double-crossing at every level and Samson’s integrity is at stake.

The cast includes popular stage favourites including Vivek Madan, Shikha Talsania, Tahira Nath, Vikash Khurana, Kalliroi Tziafeta, Abhinav Sharma, Garima Yajnik, Kashin Shetty, Lisha Bajaj, Vrinda Kacker, Kanchan Khilare, Dhiraj Wadhwani, and Mohit Nehra.

“A Small Family Business” is Adhaar’s fifth play—he believes that the production is “very lucky” to have cast 13 extremely talented actors for the show. “All of them come from different backgrounds and different schools of acting, and getting them to align with the tonality of the play and in sync with each other has been quite a rewarding challenge,” he says.

Akarsh, who adapted the play, adds that he likes to make plays that are “relatable to the audience” and adds that he was quite taken by Ayckbourn’s version of “A Small Family Business” when he came across it. During the adaptation process, he “knew there was work to be done”. He also felt that certain themes were getting lost and could be better highlighted. The writer took the better part of a year to make the necessary changes, going back to the drawing board to try and find a far tighter version of the script that would resonate with audiences a lot more. He also took suggestions from the actors in order to hit the sweet spot, which, as he says, usually happens over multiple shows where one can keep tweaking things.

He was drawn to the text because of the protagonist’s unique experience of being an outsider in a large and established family. “India is filled with joint families, which are business families and we constantly see cultures clash in inter-community marriages. So, the contextualisation was smooth and the age-old battle of ethics versus corruption is something we are born into. So, there was always scope for tons of resonance,” he says. When the play was staged last year, it was well received because of its relatability and humour, but according to Akarsh, “the best thing about theatre is that it is constantly evolving”. In its second run, the play premiered on 21 September and will be staged till 24 September. This farcical family drama has everything going for it, from a talented cast to a gripping storyline that is sure to keep its audience tickle

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