Review: My Granny the Goldfish – proving dysfunction is universal

Metro Vancouver’s visible minorities account for approximately 40% of the region’s
population including a large number of Indo-Canadians. Given this demographic, it
has always been a mystery to me why more of our diverse population is not represented
on Vancouver’s stages. While this is slowly changing, there have been few mainstream
theatre productions that represent this population transformation and resulting
shift in our cultural landscape. Hopefully that is about to change starting with
the Arts Club’s production of My Granny the Goldfish, currently on stage
at the newly remodeled Revue Stage on Granville Island.

Nico (Shaker Paleja) arrived in Vancouver two years ago from his native India.
A hypochondriac, his worst fears are realized as he ends up in hospital. Insisting
that his family does not come from India to visit him in hospital, his Granny (Balinder
Johal) arrives just the same. At first a little angry that she has come, we soon
learn that there is a special bond between the two. Besides, Granny has her own
personal reason for coming.

Back in India, Nico’s parents Dara (David Adams) and Farzeen (Veena Sood) wait
impatiently for an update from Granny. When the call finally comes through though
it is not what is expected and Nico’s parents jump on a plane to Vancouver.

My Granny the Goldfish
Shaker Paleja and Balinder
Johal in the Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of My Granny the Goldfish. Photo
by David Cooper.

While at times quite funny (one of the funnier lines early in the show has Granny
talking about the invasion of big-box retail into India: “The Gap – come buy
something your own children have made
”) and at other times touching, My
Granny the Goldfish
does suffer somewhat from a clear focus. It takes Playwright
Anosh Irani a long time to actually get to the point and while the journey, for
the most part, is fun, I would have much preferred to have had some of the conflict
earlier as it felt rushed when some of the family issues are ultimately revealed.

The relationship between Nico and his Granny is supposed to be a special one,
but I didn’t always find the emotional connection; the physical connection between
the two was there, although most times it was played for laughs. This was particularly
evident during the penultimate scene where the physical contact was at its greatest,
and most beautiful, but I just couldn’t get that emotional bond.

The relationship between Nico’s parents is played almost entirely for its comedy
with both Adams and Sood playing well for the laughs. I appreciated Director Lois
Anderson's efforts to highlight the similarities between mother and daughter, confirming
that indeed the mango doesn’t fall far from the tree.

The striking differences between the Vancouver hospital and the family home in
Bombay were helped immensely by Amir Ofek’s set design and Ted Roberts’ lighting.
Ofek captured the starkness of Nico’s hospital room with the sparse set and the
huge “hospital” curtain that separated it from the family home in Bombay. Likewise,
Roberts provided a great contrast with his institutional hospital lighting and the
wild and almost surreal home back in India.

In a recent interview with the Georgia Straight, Playwright Irani says this is
the most personal play he has written and while it doesn’t break any ground in race
relations, its quirky story reinforces the idea that the colour of your skin doesn’t
mean you are any less likely to grow up in a dysfunctional family. That, apparently,
is universal.

3 1/2 of 5 Stars
Granny the Goldfish

Arts Club New Revue Stage
15 April – 15 May 2010

Hypochondria, claustrophobia, germaphobia—oh, my! When Nico, a young Indian student
in Vancouver, is hospitalized, his grandmother, armed with nothing more than a whiskey
bottle, arrives from Bombay. Despite Nico’s protests, her visit may be just the
cure-all he needs. Irreverently funny, My Granny the Goldfish is a tale
of finding truth and love in the midst of morphine and bedpans. Tickets

available online
or by calling 604.687.1644.

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