After a year's break due to lockdown, Prayas Theatre has returned with the third instalment in their annual anthology series, First World Problems 3.0. The 2021 edition, written during lockdown and devised earlier this year, is the first I've seen, but the first two entries have been the types of shows to quickly build word-of-mouth buzz and are still spoken of highly.
Eighteen South Asian and Spanish migrant actors make up this year's cast, working with six new scripted and devised pieces, directed by FWP mastermind Sananda Chatterjee. The rapid pace of the show gives little room for an elaborate set, but Natasha Iyer's simple design allows the performers to take centre stage, as the stories hone in on a variety of diverse experiences.
The opening piece, Pearly Shells by Mereana Latimer, starts the evening on a high and remains the standout by the end. Ayesha Heble stars as Vani, a woman losing her memory and stuck in the past, unable to remember her own daughter and waiting for her sons to return home. It's brief but moving, telling a deep, complete story in a short amount of time, and Heble's performance – aided by Sudeepta Vyas as her daughter Pearl – creates an instant connection.
The piece starts a recurring motif of movement and dance that weaves through many of the other performances, particularly the recurring segment Don't Go Under the Bridge, and scripted piece Mirror, which features the night's other standout performance from Narme Deva as a woman reflecting on her past and familial connections with moving results.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
The set-up of First World Problems gives a number of writers a chance to get their stories out, allowing for an interesting variety of stories. The mix of the comedic and the dramatic allowed for a variety in tone, but it was strange combination that didn't always work in tandem.
The Interview by Aman Bajaj and Tim Booth was a hilarious skit centring around a cocky man going for what he believes is a job interview at an accounting firm. Some tight double entendre and well delivered gags by Cristiana Useche and Agustya Chandra proved a highlight, but coming in the middle of more dramatic pieces, it couldn't help but feel off afterwards.
And while the quickfire format was an asset to some pieces, for closing piece 12 Years Too Late, it was a hindrance. The story of two brothers reconnecting after the death of their father featured strong performances by Jehangir Homavazir and Utsav K Patel, but the tense script by Mehan Mehta needed more time to breathe and grow.
The potential was there, as it was for the majority of the pieces in First World Problems 3.0. While the show did not move cohesively between its varied parts, the strong cast and burgeoning writers showed their skills admirably, and as a much-needed launching pad and spotlight, on that platform, FWP succeeds.
What: First World Problems 3.0
Where: Basement Theatre, until April 24