Sincerity Wins The Day
The script is uneven, but the cast is superb
by Stuart Munro
“Yes, you may die. But are you happy with the life you have lived?”
These words are spoken early on in Act II by a loving grandmother to her grandson as they wait to hear the results of his biopsy. In many ways, this simple question is at the heart of Anosh Irani’s play “My Granny the Goldfish,” on stage now at The Factory Theatre.
Set primarily in a Vancouver hospital room, “My Granny the Goldfish” is the story of Nico (Kawa Ada), a recent arrival from Mumbai, India, who may or may not have cancer. His granny (Yolande Bavan) shows up unexpectedly in order to comfort him. Eventually, his parents Farzeen and Dara (Veena Sood and Sanjay Talwar) arrive as well, and the stage is set for an awkward family reunion; old grievances are brought up, and ultimately some wounds begin to heal.
yes, the play is set in a hospital, but no, we’re not in for a downer of an evening
Mr. Irani’s script is witty and fast paced. The play’s tone is set straightaway when Nico describes his “lump” as being the “size of an orange wrapped in octopus tentacles.” Kawa Ada delivers this opening monologue smoothly and with wonderful comic timing, letting us know that, yes, the play is set in a hospital, but no, we’re not in for a downer of an evening. Mr. Ada is really the anchor of this cast, tying everyone together.
Slightly less effective is Yolande Bavan’s Granny. Ms. Bavan has a wonderful dry wit and delivers some hilarious one-liners, but the more serious moments lacked a certain gravity. Because of this, the evening occasionally lacks the heart it truly deserves. Veena Sood and Sanjay Talwar are both excellent as Nico’s bickering parents, and there is real familial chemistry between the three generations. This makes the second act, where all four actors are together, much stronger than the first.
John Thompson’s set and lighting design are informative and unobtrusive; the switches between the hospital room and an apartment in Mumbai are seamless and non-cumbersome, helping with the flow of the play.
At times, I felt the actors were a tad uncomfortable with their staging or dialogue, but a talkback after the performance revealed that very little staging was actually set in stone by director Rosemary Dunsmore. The actors all agreed that this allowed them to continually mine the depths of the material, making the play a bit lighter one night, or more serious the next (depending on the audience’s reaction). This must be both liberating and terrifying, and I feel not all actors would be up for the challenge. Nevertheless, there were no major derailments over the course of the evening, and this speaks to the skill level of four highly trained professionals.
“My Granny the Goldfish” is a charming, heartwarming little play. It meanders a bit and, at times, feels a little unfocused, but the fast-paced script is well performed and honestly delivered, making for an enjoyable night at the theatre.