Review: Happy Birthday Sunita

Happy Birthday Sunita recently came to Watford Palace theatre. A comedic show bringing to light family dynamics full of  love and hate. 

After first premiering in 2014, Happy Birthday Sunita has been brought back to the stage with a brand new cast and a fresh feeling. 

In the Western entertainment industries of Hollywood and British television it is surely rare to see main characters of a south Asian background. 

However, this play finally gives the opportunity to showcase the brilliance of south Asian talent. With some parts even being spoken in Punjabi, making it relatable to audience members of the same background, which was wonderful to witness. 

What I found most interesting about this show was the stark difference between each female character who each convey a different struggle women in society face. 

The more traditional, outdated ideas that a woman should stay home, putting education second (if that) was presented through Sunita (Bhawna Bhawsar). Being denied further education, her character is seemingly left stuck, forty still living with her mother never truly being allowed to grow and prosper like her brother.

The mother, Tejpal (Divya Seth Shah) defies social expectations and decides to put herself first, choosing to find new love after her husband leaves. 

Finally, Harleen, brilliantly played by Rameet Rauti could be seen as the comic relief character as she did have the audience in stitches multiple times throughout the night. Nonetheless, she conveys the real issue of not wanting to sacrifice a hard earned career for having children, a dilemma many women face. 

A hole in each character has been left by their absent father. Sunita, wearing her fathers cardigan throughout the evening emphasising her holding onto hope that her father will return. The play ending with her removing it shows her letting go of the past and being able to move forward.

The one fault I could find was the stereotypical masculine rivalry between Nav (Devesh Kishore) and Maurice (Keiron Crook). Although both characters were surely well played, the ‘brawl’ of sorts was poorly executed. 

The play itself perfectly captured the warm familiar feeling everyone finds in their own home. The set itself was a modern, cosy kitchen fit with soft lights, a great representation of a British home. Paired perfectly with the familiarity of family gathering in celebration.

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