What can a one-woman show look like? In an ideal world, they’d all look a lot like this one. With a small set and even smaller cast, What Can Indian Look Like? wins over its audience through a charming performance, a thought-provoking script, and an undeniable belief in the message of its story.
What Can Indian Look Like? is a series of two one-woman shows, performed by Natasha Advani Thangkhiew and Shaharah Gaznabbi on alternating days, each showcasing some of the multi-faceted challenges that arise when trying to fit into a predefined notion of identity. The show I saw was Natasha’s, which explores her experiences growing up in a culture that constantly seems unwilling to accept her. Throughout the show she delivers a powerful performance, using warmth and humour to highlight the prejudices and expectations that can impact our relationships and self-identity as we age.
Tackling something as important and complex as cultural identity in a 55-minute show is no easy task. Luckily, Natasha is up to it. We are treated to a wide range of characters, some more developed than others, with enough distinction between them to leave you feeling a sense of satisfaction every time a change of posture is deployed. The pacing of the story never feels rushed or confusing, as an artful backdrop guides us through the various stages of Natasha’s life from childhood to university, and even the difficulties imposed by a worldwide pandemic.
As each stage progresses we gain a better understanding of the subtle differences that can leave someone feeling isolated from their own culture. By the time it reaches the end, we are left reflecting on the nuances of identity and the importance of acknowledging other people’s lived experiences.
It feels somewhat unfair to review a show having only seen one-half of the performances, especially when that show is designed to highlight the fundamental differences of individual experiences. However, if Natasha’s performance is any indicator, the full work will be a captivating, thought-provoking experience that is well worth a watch. I recommend you take the chance to see one of these performances – or even do one better than me and see them both.