The Tiger and the Moustache - Theatre Review

‘The Tiger and the Moustache’ is a deeply searching play which wrestles with questions around the post-colonial world and the politics of partition from 1947 to the subsequent formation of Bangaladesh in 1971. The playwright and performer Saikat Ahamed’s semi-autobiographical, historical play follows the story of his mother Hashi, the legendary tiger fighting uncle Cocon Mama and his own experience as a second generation immigrant to the UK.

Ahamed’s awe-inspiring solo performance is rich in storytelling and dynamic from start to finish. Most impressive are the array of parts Ahamed takes on as he transports us through time and space, across borders, jungles, rivers and starkly contrasting UK counties. Ahamed parodies the elite, the intellectuals, the self-serving politicians and all who are not truly authentic. He captures the bold fighting spirit of revolutionary Cocon Mama and the vulnerability of the young Saikat as he seeks to make sense of contemporary British life and the universal burden of parental ideals. Ahamed plays out human eccentricity with delightful humour and skilfully depicts the awkwardness of social situations with which, so many of us can identify. ‘The Tiger and the Moustache’ is by no means a light performance. Ahamed leads us through some harrowing political events and the play is rooted in rigorously researched historical detail. The audience experiences the tragedy of war, the suffocating features of cultural oppression and isolation. Ahamed also delivers moments of tenderness with great sensitivity.

The play is extremely fast paced and I believe this is facilitated in part by Ahamed’s lively use of sound which enables the audience to stay with the rapid shifts in scene. I enjoy the familiar and unfamiliar sounds of railway stations, disco halls, markets and mosques which are evocative and timely. I also appreciate the incorporation of native language through rhyme and verse which, I believe adds authenticity and relieves the play of what critical thinkers might call “The burden of English” (Spivak 1993).

In watching the play I get a sense that Ahamed is grasping at the question of identity- what does it mean for a second generation immigrant to come from this complex and explosive back-ground to which he is both connected and disconnected? I am reminded that identity is something that must be personally wrought out and worked at and cannot be passively handed down from generation to generation. I am also reminded of the folly of idly buying into a culture that bears no meaning to the individual.

As a woman I am challenged by the temptation we so often face in living out our dreams through our children, usually at a detriment to their freedom. On the subject of women, the era of partition was particularly brutal with high incidences of rape and abduction which, the Pakistani government estimates occurred somewhere in the region of 50,000 women (Kamla Visweswara 2011). I had hoped to see more of the woman’s experience in Hashi’s story however, this was very much the story of Saikat Ahamed (and I don’t mean that critically).

‘The Tiger and the Moustache’ is a literary gem and Saikat Ahamed, like the tiger of Blake’s well loved poem, is burning bright. This performance comes highly recommended.

(c) Sarah Dosomah 2014

Notes
‘Perspectives on Modern South Asia: A Reader in Culture, History’ p.123, Eds Kamala Visweswaran, 2011
‘The Burden of English’ Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak ‘Post Colonial discourses’ Eds Gregory Castle 2001

4th July, Chapter Arts centre, Cardiff
www.chapter.org
Written and performed by Saikat Ahamed
Tour dates available at www.saikatahamed.com

Author's review: 
5