City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Chopping Chillies, Assembly Roxy, Review

By Vivien Devlin - Posted on 11 August 2016

Clair Whitehead in Chopping Chillies
Show details
Assembly Roxy
Theatre Tours International
Running time: 
Clair Whitefield (writer), Guy Masterson (director), Kat Gormley (Sound and Lighting Operator)
Clair Whitefield

Standing centre stage, Clair Whitefield, wearing a simple red T shirt and loose blue trousers, begins to tell us an extraordinary, humbling story of love, family, loss, grief, new beginnings and unexpected friendships.

From the first line, we are drawn into a traveller’s tale from India to London. We begin on Parliament Hill in the early morning before the dog walkers arrive; beside the trees you will observe a Kalari master practicing the sacred martial art, a ritual of flowing kicks and sticks to represent power, respect and balance.

This is Ajna Jan, who has arrived from Kerala to take over his late uncle’s cobbler’s shop in Camden. He has left behind the colour and chaos, tuk tuks and street vendors to experience the black tunnel of the Northern Line en route to 75 Camden Street.

But he is no ordinary cobbler, repairing battered shoes. The kindly, quiet Ajna is a spiritual gentleman who is able to combine the ancient art of reflexology to refresh and energise the tired souls of his customers with magical results.

Clair is a masterly mime artist and actress, who, with graceful movement, brings to life with meticulous detail the various characters, from lawyers to young lovers, who visit the shop.

Next door, Katy, just back from a gap year in India has opened her Kerala café – and Ajna is of course quick to offer his expertise as a taster of her pakoras and samosas; the enticing description of fragrant coconut, lime, Kashmiri chillies and banana leaves is so pungent you actually believe that Madhur Jaffrey is sizzling the spices on stage.

Written as a richly imaginative poetry-play, the lyrical language is reminiscent in its gentle humour and emotional insight of T S Eliot’s “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock”. It is beautifully directed by Guy Masterson, like a choreographed dance with just sound effects and lighting to create a real sense of being taken on this journey from Cochin to Camden.

This is storytelling at its most simple and most enlightening and rather like the memoir and film, “Eat Pray Love,” explores issues of nationality, language, faith and culture. Ultimately it is about the joy of cooking and sharing good food which brings people together, the true meaning of companionship. "Chopping Chillies" is a delicious, appetising spicy feast of a show.

4 - 28 August (not 15th), 2.50pm
Tickets: £12 & £10