Cornershop Confessions

Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, The Edge, Auckland

16/05/2006 - 20/05/2006

Maidment Theatre, Auckland

07/10/2008 - 11/10/2008

ODDFELLOWS Comedy Festival

Production Details

Tarun Mohanbha

Tarun Mohanbhai returns in his first solo show in 4 years. After co creating D’Arranged Marriage and touring to Melbourne, Sydney Opera House, Malaysia and touring nationally, Tarun has ventured into a story that is as close to his heart as was D’arranged Marriage.

After spending most of his life working in a real life dairy situation, (that’s right folks not one of those stereotypical ones you often see in television and film, but a real life one), he weaves these experiences into a story that tells the life of a budding young DJ called Vijay trying to escape the perils of working in a Cornershop and following his heart of becoming a DJ.

Theatre , Comedy , Solo ,


Amusingly pointed

Review by Nik Smythe 09th Oct 2008

To begin I must offer my own apologetic confession to the company: I missed the first 15 minutes or so due to having the start time wrong (7.30pm, not 8.00 folks!).  Despite this, when I entered the play I was quickly drawn into and up to speed with the story.  Without knowing what I missed exactly, I didn’t find anything in particular lacking because of it.

The premise is daringly predictable: a migrant Indian family dealing with their children coming of age, with as many stereotypical race/gender/age gags as you might expect.  An effective set design (uncredited), strong audio and visual effects (lighting design by Glenn Ashworth) and above all a versatile and spirited performance from Tarun Mohanbhai, also writer and producer, combine to make Cornershop Confessions a worthwhile watch.

Clever and amusing as the snappy script is, with input I note from script advisor Te Radar and dramaturg Lauren Jackson, Cornershop Confessions is as much a dramatic exploration of the generational differences within the family unit.  Distinctively Indian, not least due to the corner dairy dynasty around which the story revolves, yet the struggle for the children to break free from their parents, counterpoised by the same parents’ struggle to accept their children moving on to pursue their own dreams is surely recognisable to any culture with families. 

Mohanbhai’s plethora of characters – with an eclectic range of character voices and distinctive physical attributes – of whom I lost count, and most of whose names I didn’t catch and/or am unsure how to spell, paint a comprehensive picture of Indian life in the western world: Vijay and Sunita, the teenagers born in New Zealand with little regard for the traditions of their homeland culture, their parents who migrated as teenagers trying in vain to stamp their authority on their children’s futures, and dear old Grandma, ostensibly feeble and senile and generally treated as such – but perhaps far more astute and wise than she appears?  Another portrait that transcends culture in the way we deal with our elders.

These relationships, along with other incidental characters – family friends, the cigarette purchasing infant, the cheesy Aussie product merchant etc. – make for numerous amusingly pointed cross-cultural interchanges that go deeper than the less distilled, gag-driven setups in Mohanbhai’s collaborative sketch comedy show A Thousand Apologies currently playing on TV3. 

Afterthought:  You couldn’t buy, nor would you wish for, the kind of indirect publicity that recent headlines have potentially given this play.  Mohanbhai’s script does make mention of the inherent risk of one of society’s most nobly humble career options, where innocent dairy owners have been maimed or killed often for paltry sums of cash.  This if nothing else seems a worthy reason for acknowledging and honouring this profession that we tend to take for granted.
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Under-developed and ill-prepared

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 17th May 2006

Opening to a full-ish, predominantly Indian and friendly house, Tarun Mohanbhai’s one-man-show, Cornershop Confessions, explores a variety of interesting characters. The central protagonist, Vijay, is a young Indian man working by day in the family business, a corner diary, and DJ-ing by night, to forward his dreams of becoming a full-time professional VJ / musician.

Even the most experienced of actors struggle to pull off the many roles required in this one-person format. At times the task seemed beyond Tarun, as some characters were not fully formed, and others seemed clichéd. A notable exception was Tarun’s Grandmother, where he mastered some wonderful tongue-in-cheek comedy. In this role, Tarun seemed more at ease, giving an enjoyable performance, where the dialogue flowed naturally.

Another well played character, with some of the most familiar material for the audience, was the father figure, with lines such as "The bakery’s got a cold fridge" and "Golf is poor man’s hockey" bringing the house down. Dad’s spotlight soliloquy, "Who will mind the store when I am no more" was also a delightful, well-pitched performance. 

However, aside from these isolated moments, more time was needed workshopping the script in its entirety, then working with a director to get the whole work to the same standard. Too often, conversation between characters was directed in such a way that movement and transitions were awkward and jarring. This clumsy presentation, all that unnecessary to-ing and fro-ing, impeded the flow of the story.

Although the multi-tasking technician did a fine job mastering the many sound, lighting and AV cues given to him, the technical direction also needs work. For example, a pre-recorded "Voice of God" to articulate the actor’s inner thoughts, was clinical and miss-timed, breaking the natural pace of the performance. An aside to the audience would’ve done the trick. Also, I’m not sure vocal amplification was required, as Tarun’s voice would carry well on its own, and clarity was lost rather than enhanced, with the use of the headset mic.

Coupled with these teething problems, Tarun simply didn’t have his words down. There were verbal stumbles throughout the hour. At times he appeared lost and segues from one subject to another, were often unclear.  

Tarun’s comedy writing has some fine moments, but some of his more passé material, I felt, let him down. Also, sometimes the suggestion of an idea is enough, rather than, for example, "I want Fame!" – Cue theme music from… Fame

I wonder if Cornershop Confessions suffers from being a stand up routine locked inside a play or a play locked inside a stand up routine. It didn’t sit comfortably with me as it struggled in the grey area between the two. The major issue I have is much of the dialogue did not seem real or believable, if this was a play.

Confessions was at times warm and humorous, but as a whole it suffers from being under-developed.


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